When lights suddenly went out last night at around 10.00 pm, I thought it was a blessing in disguise since I would be forced to go to bed early and sleep off the fatigue accumulated during my latest travels. It was raining and I took that as a bonus since as you know, slumber is twice as sweet in a warm bed when the drops are pounding the tin roof.
I really felt inconvenienced when I woke up to find that electricity had not been restored despite the fact that the rain had not been heavy enough to cause any substantial damage in electricity infrastructure. Whatever the case, the only kind of accident expected would be a tree falling on the power lines – usually dealt with within hours. Apart from missing the early morning conveniences that are easily facilitated by electricity, I could not use my computer. It is especially frustrating when you have a story to publish online.
I was a bit surprised when Gabriel from CARE International called to inform me that there are some serious damages on the roads in Hargeisa. Certainly, last night’s rains could not warrant damage of the magnitude he was talking about! For that reason, I decided to join him and find out just how bad it was.
When we arrived at a bridge where the greatest damage was evident, we found a large crowd gaping at the spectacle in awe. What we found was beyond both our expectations, or anyone else’s for that matter.
Onlookers are puzzled by the unexpected damage
Apparently, the rain that fell here last night did not occasion the floods that raged through a dry river bed that divides the city of Hargeisa into two. The floods came from rain that fell in the highlands west of Somaliland, and from as far away as Ethiopia.
The floods left in their wake collapsed bridges, damaged roads, ruined walls, uprooted trees, dangling electricity and telephone wires, destroyed homes, lost property and a stunned city. They came in the night, stole, cause havoc, maimed and killed and left before morning – just like armed thieves.
The road that vehicles use to cross the river was washed away
This collapsed footbridge used to run across the river from the spot where we are standing.
A collapsed wall protecting Xaraf Hotel from this kind of emergency
A woman, now homeless, ponders her fate by the roadside as a man walks past with a salvaged electricity cable. Notice the telephone wires on the ground.
Not even International Organizations were spared
Boys will be boys: An irresistible opportunity for a swim
Initial newspaper reports say that at least 6 people have been confirmed dead so far. Unfortunately, the number is expected to rise. Obviously, the cost of the damage is quite substantial. Famous restaurants such as Xaraf and Ming Sing have been closed for repairs. I was told that some International organizations including UNDP and Handicap International have relocated from their offices. I am not able to confirm the report since it is almost impossible to get through on telephone. The floods affected other parts of Somaliland, including the port town of Berbera. Electricity is still out and so we have to use a generator.
The army and police worked all night long to assist in the evacuation of people from the riverbanks. Everyone is apprehensive and expects more flooding especially since we are in the rainy season. Many families are already busy sand banking their habitats. Problem is, we are expecting floods that pounce without warning. Maybe that is why the word on everyone’s lips is ‘Tsunami’.
An anxious crowd at the only other major bridge that crosses the river. The absence of water is quite deceiving, right?
Before you go to sleep tonight, say a prayer for the inhabitants of Somaliland – especially those who suffered losses last night. Also if you may, join me in counting our blessings.