DIRE DAWA, Ethiopia – Rescuers using earth movers and their bare hands searched for survivors Monday, a day after flash floods killed at least 200 people, including dozens of children.
Hundreds more were feared missing, and officials said there was little chance of finding more survivors.
Flood waters crashed through homes after a river burst its banks early Sunday following heavy rains. The waters flipped cars, swept away houses and severed power and communications lines.
Alemitu Natta, a mother of four, told The Associated Press she lost everything in the flooding in Dire Dawa, about 300 miles east of the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
"The flood came suddenly and destroyed our house," she said. "I don't remember how we got out of our house but when we did I could see all our neighbors swimming through the water."
Simon Mechale, head of the government's emergency arm, the Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Agency, called for international help. A U.N. team was at the scene to assess the damage and what assistance they could provide.
"This is an unprecedented disaster," Mechale said. "We are trying to take the lead in helping residents get the situation under control."
Officials put the death toll at around 200, with 39 children among the victims, and said that number was expected to rise.
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi flew to the town Monday and said officials were "doing everything possible ... for the people of Dire Dawa."
"This will hurt the development of Dire Dawa but we will do everything we can to help them recover," Zenawi said.
Local radio stations reported that more than 200 homes in the town of 300,000 were destroyed by the floods. Radio stations also reported that area highways were cut off by the floods.
Torrential rains in April 2005 caused massive flooding in parts of eastern Ethiopia, killing more than 150 people and leaving thousands homeless. Flooding killed 32 people in Dire Dawa in May 2005.