Impact of floods in West Africa surges: UN

The United Nations on Monday sharply increased its toll of the number of people affected by floods in West Africa, putting the number at more than 592,000 in no less than 10 countries.

In Senegal alone, floods resulting from several weeks of heavy rain have impaced on 264,000 people, the regional representative of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid OCHA said.

In neighbouring Burkina Faso, where forecasters say 263 millimetres about 10 inches of rain fell on September 1 in a 12-hour period, eight people are dead -- all but one in the capital Ouagadougou -- and 150,000 homeless, it said.

Elswhere, there have been nearly 67,000 affected in Niger, 55,000 in Ghana, 20,000 in Benin, 15,000 in Guinea, 8,700 in Gambia, 8,000 to 10,000 in Mauritania, nearly 2,000 in Ivory Coast, and 1,500 in Sierra Leone.

More abundant rain than previous years, a lack of infrastructure in fast-growing urban areas to cope with heavy downpours, and a lack of rainy-season preparations by governments in the region are responsible for the situation, said Yvon Edoumou, an OCHA spokesman in Dakar.

Last Friday the OCHA in Geneva said that some 350,000 people in West Africa had been affected by serious flooding. Two years ago, in the same region, almost 800,000 were affected.

Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade, returning Monday from a month's holiday in Europe, said this year's rains were a mixed blessing.

"This year's harvest will be bigger and we will have almost self-sufficiency in food," he said. "Sadly, this great success has been accompanied by flooding ... I sympathise with the suffering of those whose homes are flooded."

Suffering has been exacerbated by power outages, he acknowledged, adding that he would see to it that the Senelec electricity utility gets fresh imports of fuel to run its generators.

Jonathan M. Romano Skate Park as the sun sets. AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Nick de la Torre