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Five killed in torrential Tunisia rains

News24
24 Sep 2018, 20:38 GMT+10

Flash floods in Tunisia's Cap Bon peninsula have killed at least five people, authorities said Sunday, as surging waters caused by heavy rains carried away homes, cars and chunks of road.

Saturday's storm caused water levels in some areas to rise as much as 1.7 metres (5.6 feet), as bridges and roads were damaged in record rains that dropped the equivalent of nearly six months of average precipitation.

In most places, water levels had begun falling quickly, the interior ministry said, adding however that the death toll had risen to five after a teenager was electrocuted Sunday in Bou Argoub, 45 kilometres (28 miles) southeast of Algiers.

Ministry spokesman Sofiene Zaag also said a 60-year-old man had drowned near the town of Takilsa and another man was found dead in Bir Bouregba, close to the town of Hammamet.

Two sisters were swept away as they left work at a factory in Bou Argoub, the ministry said.

"They were trying to cross rising wadi waters to get back home," Amir, a resident of the area, told AFP.

Wadis are river beds that are usually dry but are meant to carry away seasonal rains.

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People angry about the situation demonstrated in Cape Bon, with Prime Minister Chahed calling for calm as excavators and pumps were put into action.

Videos posted to social networks showed surging waters carrying cars and chunks of road in the north of the peninsula.

Tunisian authorities said they had dispatched police, army and rescue teams to the region on Saturday afternoon, in addition to mobilising ambulances and two helicopters.

Chahed visited affected areas to meet survivors, as authorities took preventative measures in the Sahel region further south in case of further rains.

"The main thing today is to reopen roads and help those affected. There are regions that are still isolated," he said, quoted by private radio station Mosaique FM.

The sun was out Sunday and receding water levels meant most of the area's roads were passable by car, the interior ministry's Zaag said, although the region's telephone networks were still largely out of service.

Traders surveyed damage to their shops and goods, while some schools said lessons would not take place on Monday.

Severe thunderstorms have hit the North African country since the middle of last week, flooding roads and damaging property, sparking anger against the authorities for allegedly failing to maintain drainage systems.

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