LAGOS, Sept 10, 2012 (AFP) - Flooding across Nigeria has killed at least 137 people and displaced more than 35,000 since July, the Red Cross said Monday, as officials urged mass evacuations along the River Niger, fearing it was set to overflow.
Heavy rainfall in two northern states has spilled contaminants into drinking wells, leading to a cholera outbreak that has killed at least eight and left scores of others hospitalised, according to local officials. Various agencies have offered different figures for the lives lost during the rainy season and the Red Cross did not include the cholera deaths among its flood toll. The states affected by floods range from Lagos in the southwest to Adamawa in the northeast, where at least 30 people died following the release of water from a dam in Cameroon that caused Nigeria's River Benue to overflow. The disaster management coordinator with the Nigeria Red Cross, Umar Mairiga, who provided the death toll, said 36,331 people had been displaced across 15 affected states.
Water levels at two dams on the River Niger, which cuts through several southern and central states, have reached their highest points in 29 years, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said in a statement. "NEMA has ordered the immediate evacuation of citizens living along the River Niger plains," it said, listing communities in five states as the most vulnerable. A NEMA official told AFP it was impossible to estimate the number of people whose homes were at risk, but said the figure certainly numbered in the thousands. The heavy rainfall has propelled a cholera outbreak in several west African countries and officials in northern Nigeria have confirmed at least 135 cases. In Katsina state, the chairman of the Faskari local government area, Isyaku Faskari-Ahmed, said two villages had "lost eight people to cholera (and) more than 70 were hospitalised from the disease". Emergency officials in Adamawa state have reported 65 cases, but no deaths.
In Sierra Leone, the hardest hit country, at least 244 people have died and more than 14,000 thousand have been affected. Cholera, an intestinal infection, is transmitted by water soiled by human waste. The disease leads to diarrhoea, dehydration and death if untreated. More than 200 deaths from the water-borne infection were recorded during Nigeria's seasonal downpours last year. The rainy season in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country with about 160 million people, runs roughly from March to September.