Burkina Faso floods: A pointer to climate change impact in green Africa

QUGADAUGOU: A world away from the heated negotiations for a critical deal on stopping climate change at the UN summit in Copenhagen, Burkina Faso, inhabitants are suffering the direct consequences of global warming.

Jacqueline, Noroudine and Guy-Prosper are among the 150,000 made homeless by floods after the heaviest rainfall in decades hit Burkina’s capital Ouagadougou last month. On September 1 some 30 centimetres of

rain fell in the space of

10 hours, the heaviest rainfall in the west African country since 1919.

In central Ouagadougou the flood victims live in a makeshift tent village set up on a sporting pitch in the middle of the capital. At first glance the site, which houses 1,600 people — mostly women and children— looks like a warzone refugee camp.

For these victims of climate change September 1 is a day that remains etched in their minds.

“I was very scared, we had never seen that kind of rain. We managed to get some of our stuff out but suddenly the house caved in,” student Noroudine Maranga, 25, told AFP. The rain started a little before daybreak.

“I was sleeping, they told me it was raining and that it wouldn’t stop,” 21-year-old student Guy-Prosper Ouedraogo, said.

“There was a lot of water in the houses in the lower parts and the people did not know how to swim so we rescued them.” “After we saw that the dam (close to the neighbourhood that was hit) had overflowed. The water was rising and flowing into the houses. We tried to block the entrances with sandbags but the water kept coming. We got out our stuff and the family and then the house fell down,” Ouedraogo said.

In the crowded working class neighbourhoods of Ouagadougou many of the houses, built straight onto the earth, without foundations, were destroyed by

the water.

Seydouben Traore managed to save himself after

being swept away by the

water when he stepped outside his house.

“I climbed in a tree and stayed there the whole day. I saw chickens, cows, bulls and goats swept away by the flood,” he said.

“I also saw three bodies but I couldn’t do anything. It was every man for himself, it was horrible,” the 43-year-old musician told AFP.

His house was destroyed and he is hoping for help from the authorities to find a new home.

“We cannot stay here indefinitely, I want to be far away from the dam. I am afraid that it will happen again. We really believed the sky was falling down on us when it happened.” “We have to rebuild a house but we have no money,” Jacqueline Ouangre, 36, said. “We are here, we don’t know what to do,” the unemployed woman told AFP.

Just several kilometres from the camp, African policy makers are meeting Sunday to agree on a joint position during the UN climate talks in Copenhagen. The African states have already announced that they would be seeking billions of dollars in compensation payments from industrialised countries. The African continent is the world’s poorest and least industrialised. The 800,000 Africans account for only four percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.