Flooding and landslides in northern Tanzania have now killed over 63 people forcing President Samia Suluhu Hassan to cut short her attendance at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai.
“I send my sincere condolences to the affected families and have directed all our security forces to deploy to the area and help those affected,” Hassan said in a video message.
The government in Tanzania has confirmed that 400 rescue workers have been sent to the northern Hanang district.
However, rescuers are operating under challenging conditions, such as defective telecommunications and blocked, damaged roads, the president’s spokesperson, Zuhura Yunus, said in a statement released on Monday.
“President Samia, who has been in Dubai for the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP28) has decided to cut her trip short and arrive in the country as soon as possible to deal with this disaster,” Ms Yunus said.
Tanzania’s Deputy Minister of Health Dr Godwin Mollel said: “We have a team of doctors and medical officers deployed. The services are much better and many of the patients are progressing well.”
Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa said in comments broadcast on television on Monday that the number of injured stood at 116 people. Landslides had destroyed half of one village he visited, he said.
“We are here in front of bodies of our fellows. We have lost 63 loved ones. Of the total fellows we lost, 23 are men and 40 are women,” he said during an event to bid farewell to the bodies of those who had died in Hanang district, northern Tanzania.
“My fellow Tanzanians, this is a tragedy,” he said.
The flooding is the latest example of extreme weather that has devastated East African countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan, with hundreds of people killed since the region’s rainy season began in October.
At the COP 28 UN climate summit in Dubai, Hassan highlighted the fact that poor countries face disproportionate risks from climate change, despite the fact that wealthy countries in the West bear responsibility for a large share of the cumulative emissions that drive climate change.
“It must be said, unfulfilled commitments erode solidarity and trust, and have detrimental and costly consequences for developing countries,” said Hassan. “My own country is losing 2 to 3 percent of its GDP due to climate change.”