Thursday, 30 August 2007

Heavy rain disrupts Monrovia's clean water supply

More than a 250,000 residents of Liberia's capital, Monrovia, have been overwhelmed by water from torrential rains and flooding from the nearby St. Paul River. The rains have left them without safe drinking water for three days. Hundreds have also been made homeless. Officials say they are working to restore drinking water and provide help to the displaced residents. August typically represents a lull in tropical Liberia's rainy season. The West African country sees the highest rainfall from June to July and again from September to October. But this year, August has not been a dry month. Heavy rains last Saturday and Sunday have inundated the coastal capital, Monrovia. Daily downpours since then have only made the situation worse. Water levels reached more than two meters in some neighbourhoods near the St. Paul River. Residents walked away from flooded areas carrying their possessions en route to friends or relatives' homes in other parts of the capital. The floods also affected the city's water treatment plant, which pipes safe drinking water to the edge of the city, says Honubu Turay, managing director of the state-owned Liberia Water and Sewage Corporation. "There was a backflow in the water treatment plant and as a result the pump room was flooded which means all of the equipment was under water," Turay said. "And therefore, we suspended the operation of the equipment until we could drain the water and have the equipment properly serviced”. Water was cut off around five in the morning on Monday. Turay says his crew has been working hard ever since to bring the plant back on line. "We are doing everything possible to drain the water," Turay said. "The first thing we did, we put in three dewatering pumps, which are being used now to drain the water. Now, the purpose of that is we have to be able to pump more water out than is coming in”. He says he hopes to be able to supply clean drinking water by the end of the week. But he says, in the meantime, he hopes residents will beable to draw on household reserves, and he advises them to conserve clean water for cooking and drinking. Liberia is still rebuilding four years after a decade-plus civil war brutalized the country. The government, under President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has been working to restore and repair public services, like national electricity, which were interrupted and damaged by the war.

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