Algiers Lashed by Deadly Storm

ALGIERS, Algeria, November 12, 2001 (ENS) - At least 579 people have been reported killed and another 1,000 were injured as heavy rains and winds which began Friday night have cut a swath of destruction through northern and western Algeria. Nearly all of those killed were residents of Algeria's capital city, Algiers.

Damage resulted from the heavy rains and the intensity of the winds but also from flash floods and mudslides. The situation was aggravated because of the hilly contour of the affected areas.

Severe damage to roads, housing, schools, ports, vehicles and equipment has been reported. In the worst hit areas of Algiers, a city of three million people, water, electricity and gas supplies have been cut. Neighborhoods have been evacuated for fear of landslides or mudslides.

Algiers

Algiers is usually arid, with no more than ten inches of rainfall in a year. (Photo courtesy Organization of World Heritage Cities )
Hardest hit is the old city of Algiers, a tight network of narrow, twisting streets and lanes on steep slopes, classified as a UNESCO World Heritage City.

According to information from the Algerian Red Crescent Society, 6,000 families, including 4,000 in Algiers, have been made homeless. Evacuations are continuing, and there is concern over the vulnerability of the homeless because of the extreme cold weather.

The Algerian government has activated its national disaster plan and has declared three days of national mourning from Tuesday. Interior Minister Yazid Zerhouni has officially appealed for international aid.

Infrastructure has been heavily affected by the deluge, mud and debris that continue to pour down to Algiers from the surrounding hills. Many roads are blocked, hampering rescue operations.

Preliminary assessment of the disaster by Algerian authorities and the Algerian Red Crescent Society (ARCS) indicates that there is an urgent need for temporary shelter, large tents, food, kitchen utensils, clothes, heaters, water purification means and power supply units. ARCS today started to distribute food and milk and blankets.

It is estimated that for Algiers alone, six inches of rain fell over a 24 hour period, which is higher than the monthly average for the capital city at this time of the year.

Rain and winds are continuing, with heavy rainfall and winds in excess of 75 miles per hour anticipated.