Mogadishu - As many as 300 people are feared dead after a
ferocious storm and days of heavy floods in Somalia's north-eastern Puntland
region, the local government said on Wednesday.
"Torrential rains, high wind speeds and flooding has
created a state of emergency, with 300 persons feared dead, hundreds others
unaccounted for, and countless livestock lost," the government of the
semi-autonomous region said in a statement.
The death toll could not be independently verified, but
weather experts from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) confirmed
flooding was severe.
"Given that Puntland is a semi-arid region, it rarely
rains but when it does, to an extent we have seen... the impact is
devastating," said Hussein Gadain, a senior FAO technical advisor.
Infamous pirate hotspots such as the port of Eyl - from
where Somali gunmen have launched attacks far out into the Indian Ocean - are
some of the worst affected.
"Many fishermen are missing and feared dead, the storm
has destroyed entire villages, homes, buildings, and boats," the statement
Coastal destruction caused by a 2004 tsunami was widely seen
as being one trigger for a surge in attacks off Somalia, peaking in January
2011 when the pirates held 736 hostages and 32 boats.
However, the rate of attacks has tumbled in the past two
years, prompted partly by the posting of armed guards on boats and navy
Pirates still hold an Omani-flagged Naham 3 fishing boat
offshore, as well as at least six traditional wooden Yemeni fishing boats,
although around 90 sailors from other boats are still held hostage onshore.
Puntland's government has described the situation as a
"disaster", with entire villages destroyed, and said it was appealing
for emergency international aid.
The World Food Programme (WFP) said it is "working
closely" with local authorities "to assess the needs in Puntland in
the aftermath of the cyclone".
The main tarmac road between Puntland's capital Garowe and
the key port Bossaso has been cut off by flood waters, hampering delivering of
"The loaded and ready trucks cannot deliver supplies by
road, as the heavy rains and flooding have rendered dirt roads to the coastal
areas impassible," the government added.
Somalia has been riven by civil war since the collapse of
central government in 1991.
Impoverished Puntland, which forms the tip of the Horn of
Africa, has its own government, although unlike neighbouring Somaliland, it has
not declared independence from Somalia.