First rains, sandstorm hit north-eastern Chad
BAHAI, Chad, July 15 (UNHCR) - The first rains have arrived in north-eastern Chad, driving flood-stricken Sudanese refugees out of their makeshift shelters as the UN refugee agency rushes to relocate them to a new camp away from the border with Sudan.
In a sign of the approaching rainy season, a mix of heavy rains and sandstorms struck Bahai border town in north-eastern Chad on Wednesday. It flooded the hitherto dry river beds (wadis) where many refugees had been living since they fled fighting in western Sudan's Darfur region earlier this year. Many of the refugees had to walk through the water to drier spots, carrying their luggage on their heads.
UNHCR has relocated the flood-hit refugees to the new Oure Cassoni camp, about 25 km north of Bahai, where they can receive shelter and regular assistance. They are among the more than 2,000 refugees who have been transferred from Bahai to Oure Cassoni since the camp opened on Monday.
Wednesday's sandstorm caused poor visibility that temporarily slowed down UNHCR's convoys. At Oure Cassoni, the strong winds blew away 65 tents that were promptly re-erected by the International Rescue Committee (IRC), which manages the camp.
The poor weather conditions could potentially hamper assistance efforts in the north-eastern border area, as seen when the rainy season arrived in the middle and southern stretches of the refugee-hosting border zone. Around Adré, flooded wadis severed the roads, cutting off access to refugees and relief aid. The south has seen heavy rains since early June, but thankfully, most of the refugees are now in camps with enough supplies to last until the end of the rainy season in November.
UNHCR and its partners are racing against time to transfer some of the estimated 15,000 refugees in Bahai and 11,000 in Cariari (further north) before the rainy season starts in earnest in the north-east. The twice-daily convoys to Oure Cassoni are ongoing, relocating between 800 and 1,000 refugees every day.
Oure Cassoni camp can accommodate between 16,000 and 18,000 people, with possible extensions.