Africa: UN to drop food by plane as thousands of Somalis flee rising floods

The United Nations World Food Programme is to begin air-dropping food for thousands of people trapped by rising flood waters in southern Somalia, the agency said yesterday.

A spokeswoman, Lyndsey Davies, said the drops would begin on Monday, following a weekend of public service announcements on the BBC's Somali language service, warning residents of the areas not to crowd around the drop zones. "We have to ensure safety," Ms Davies said. "From experience with landing planes, we know people tend to crowd around food distributions, and this could cause security problems."

Somalia has had no central government since 1991, and the BBC Somali service often serves as a national radio.

A crowd at a food distribution centre in the southern coastal town of Kismayo, where tens of thousands are camped after fleeing their flooded homes, turned violent last week when the number of people who showed up far outnumbered the supply of relief food. One woman was killed.

Heavy rains that began in early October have inundated large portions of southern Somalia, causing the Juba and Shabelle Rivers to overflow their banks and adversely affecting a million people, according to aid agencies.