U.S. Begins Airdrops of Supplies for Kenya Flood Victims

The U.S. military has begun airdrops of 240 tons of relief supplies to thousands of Somali refugees, victims of flooding in Kenya in which at least 113 people have been killed, officials said Friday.

Flooding in northeastern Kenya, where the refugees have sought shelter from fighting in their volatile homeland, and other parts of the country has so far affected more than 700,000 people, said Linet Atieno, an information officer with the Kenyan Red Cross.

U.S. troops based in Djibouti were to airdrop the supplies in the Dadaab area, 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the border with Somalia, using a C-130 cargo plane. The operation was to continue until Wednesday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said in a statement.

Dadaab has been cut off for several weeks by heavy rains, with air the only means of getting supplies to the camp, the agency said. An airdrop was necessary because the Dadaab airstrip can't accommodate a C-130, the statement said.

Emmanuel Nyabera, a spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency in Kenya, said that the U.S. military had volunteered to airlift relief supplies and the agency took it up on its offer.

Floods have hit Kenya, Somalia, Rwanda and Ethiopia, affecting more than 1.8 million people, the U.N. has said. The World Food Program has said that at least 230 people have died from floods and related waterborne diseases since heavy rains pounded many parts of eastern African starting in October.

Weather experts warn that the heavy rains could continue through December in a region where a long drought has left the soil so dry it is unable to absorb the deluge.