Floods affect thousands in Gambia after heaviest rainfall in decades

A Gambian woman (R) holds her identity card in her mouth while exiting a polling station during heavy rains that forced the extension of voting hours for presidential elections, September 22, 2006. Voters in the tiny West African nation of Gambia went to the polls on Friday in a presidential election widely expected to extend the iron-fisted rule of incumbent Yahya Jammeh for a third elected term. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly (GAMBIA)

BANJUL, Aug 3 (Reuters) - The Gambia recorded its heaviest rainfall in more than 30 years last weekend, causing widespread flooding and at least two deaths, the government said on Wednesday, blaming climate change for the extreme weather.

Torrential rain started on Saturday morning and continued for more than 20 hours in parts of the West African country, said the Department of Water Resources.

The highest rainfall measured over that period was 276 mm (10.87 inches) at Banjul International Airport, compared with a previous record of 175.4 mm in July 1998, it said.

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"It is the worst flooding I have ever seen in the Gambia," said Sanna Dahaba, executive director of the National Disaster Management Agency. "This is attributed to climate change, there's no doubt about that."

Two children died and an estimated 13,000 households were affected by the floods, he said, as heavy rain continued on and off throughout the country.

Gambia is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including floods, drought, sea level rise and heatwaves, according to the World Bank. Its capital Banjul is situated on a peninsula where the Gambia River flows into the Atlantic Ocean.

Aerial photos and videos shared on social media showed vast areas of flooding with roads submerged and water nearly up to roof-level of some buildings.

The Gambia Red Cross said its volunteers were working around the clock to distribute supplies and help families relocate to emergency shelters.

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Reporting by Pap Saine; Additional reporting and writing by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Sofia Christensen and David Holmes

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