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Last updated: 30 December, 2008 - Published 15:28 GMT
 
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Guyana flooding raises concerns
 
Flooding in Enmore, Guyana
Flashback to 2005 when Guyana experienced its worst flooding in a century
Guyana is once again battling severe flooding.

The situation was exacerbated when at least 10 inches of rain fell in some parts of the country in less than two days.

The authorities have increased their efforts to deal with the rising waters caused mainly along the coast which stretches for over 150 miles and which began more than three weeks ago.

There has been widespread loss of food crops and livestock in some villages which for several weeks have remained under virtually stagnant water contaminated with waste from animals and pit toilets.

Emergency medical teams have now been permanently established in rural areas.

Suspected cases of the water-borne disease, leptospirosis, which killed about 30 people in similar flooding in 2005 are also being monitored at the Georgetown Hospital.

Parents cautioned

Health Minister Leslie Ramsammy says people have been diagnosed with skin diseases and severe respiratory infections.

He said doctors will continue making rounds until the weather clears.

The authorities have called on residents to continue to follow the advice given by the health workers, and have cautioned parents not to allow their children to play in the rising waters.

While pumps are being hastily relocated to get the excess water out of some villages, a warning has been issued that water levels in a 100-square mile conservancy are dangerously high.

Some residents say that excess water may have to be released and fear this would intensify the flooding in some areas.

president jagdeo
President Bharrat Jagdeo said the government was responding as best it could

Guyana is particularly susceptible to flooding as most of its agricultural and economic activities, as well as a large percentage of the population, are located on coastland below sea level.

President Bharrat Jagdeo spent part of the Christmas period visiting flooded areas.

"We have had a worsening of the situation with the rainfall in many parts of the country especially in Berbice … so we have to keep a watch on what's going on and ensure that we respond the best we could," Mr Jagdeo said.

Global warming

There has been criticism of his government's handling of the situation.

A BBC Caribbean reporter in Georgetown said opponents have questioned the wisdom of spending huge sums on the cricket World Cup and the Caribbean Arts Festival rather than on a more sustained focus on reinforcing aging flood and sea defences.

Flooding has always posed a risk to Guyana, but its scale and frequency appear to have increased in recent years.

Some officials say this could be due to global warming.

In 2007, the World Bank backed a research project to collect technical data about the land and the rising seas that would help the government to make informed decisions on reducing Guyana's vulnerability to flooding.

Caroline Anstey, the bank's country director for the Caribbean, said at the time that reducing Guyana's vulnerability to floods was critical for its economic stability.

"The consequences of climate change in Caribbean nations like Guyana will impose a heavy burden on the economies of the region, in particular on the poor," she said.

 
 
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