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Flood-hit Sudan facing protest over government response

Newly homeless people complain of an 'unacceptable' flood response, after rains destroy thousands of homes
Commuters pick their way through floodwaters in Khartoum's central bus station (AA)

When the skies again unleashed their fury over Khartoum before dawn on Sunday, there was little of Kamel Hussein's home left to be destroyed.

The mud bricks and wood had already been reduced to debris early last week when a flash flood swept through his neighbourhood of Salha, in Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman.

As Sudan's rainy season begins, there have already been three brief, violent storms in the capital region and beyond since 25 July.

Official media said that more than 3,000 homes have been destroyed around the country.

Poor areas like Salha and even wealthier districts in central Khartoum have been left awash in pools of water, while critics accuse the government of negligence.

Flood victims like Hussein say help has been slow to arrive.

"Officials didn't come to share our crisis, only to get their pictures taken for TV, to show they are doing their job. Just propaganda," Hussein said, sitting with his children on a bed in the rubble of his house.

Like other newly homeless people, he tried to fashion a shelter from sacks and pieces of debris - but it wasn't enough to protect against Sunday's rain whipped by ferocious winds.

"My eldest son and I spent last night here because we have to protect what is left. It was a terrible experience," he said.

Although the family has yet to receive emergency shelter from the government or aid groups, they have been given three donations of cooking oil, rice and flour.

"But the amount is very small," Hussein said.

Flooding is the latest humanitarian challenge facing Sudan, where almost seven million people, about 20 percent of the population, already needed aid, the United Nations said last month.

Worsening conflict in the country's Darfur region, an influx of people fleeing war in neighbouring South Sudan, and a malnutrition crisis have increased the number of needy citizens, the UN said.

'Government doesn't care'

Renewed flooding in the Khartoum area follows an inundation in August last year, which was the worst to strike the capital in a quarter-century and affected more than 180,000 people, the UN said at the time.

The latest deluge is the result "of the government's corruption and complete disregard for the lives and protection of the people," Sudan Change Now, an activist youth movement, said in a tweet on Sunday.

The opposition Reform Now party has called for the suspension of Khartoum state governor Abdel Rahman Al-Khidir "because he completely failed to have a solution to the rainy crisis which is repeated every year."

State officials were, however, handing out white tent-like shelters to some of the hundreds of needy families in Salha, a community along the White Nile River.

"After six days we finally got something to protect us from the rain and sun," said Omer Haroun, erecting one of the tents.

He called the donation "better than nothing" and worried about how he would eventually rebuild his home.

"We are a poor family," Haroun said. "If there is no one ready to help us rebuild, we will continue living in this miserable condition. The government is responding very slowly to this crisis."

About a dozen riot police and state security vehicles were deployed on the community's main street.

Surrounded by mud, another flood victim, Amina Abdurrahman, used a gas cooker to prepare food for her children.

Their salvaged beds and a cupboard stood on a patch of dry ground while her husband and other men tried to use what was left of their house to construct a shelter.

"I think the government doesn't care about our suffering," Abdurrahman said.

"We didn't receive anything from them except a little bit of food. And we had to fight for that, spending hours waiting. This is totally unacceptable."

Malik Bashir, an engineer who heads Khartoum's rainfall emergency bureau, said last week that "all state organs are operating at their maximum to face any eventuality" while the government ordered staff back from holiday, "thus mobilising all its resources to face the situation," the official SUNA news agency reported.

Authorities on Sunday warned people along the Nile to take care, as the river level may yet rise.

After six days of living in the open, Hussein fears his troubles might be just beginning.

"The problem is, we are at the start of the rainy season", he said.

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