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Algerian Floods*

Algeria flood toll more than 300

November 11, 2001 Posted: 10:35 AM EST (1535 GMT)

ALGIERS, Algeria -- The death toll in Algeria's worst flooding for years rose to over 340 on Sunday as more bodies were found in the capital Algiers, the worst hit area.

The government promised aid for stricken families after an emergency cabinet meeting, but the pledge came too late to save the country's leaders from fierce attacks in the media.

Newspapers say the government was warned of the impending disaster but failed to act.

"Criminal negligence," "Carelessness" and "Desertion of duty" were among headlines on Sunday.

Emergency services found more dead in the debris in Algiers, and said the toll had passed 340 -- three quarters of them in the capital itself, home to 3.5 million people.

Torrential rains began drenching the capital of Algiers on Friday, causing water to rush through its streets and buildings to crumble in Bab El Oued, one of the city's poorer neighborhoods.

Throughout the city, people could be seen wading waist-high in water, trying to get to safety. Muddy brown water raced down the grand staircases that dot the hilly, seaside capital. Many ground-floor apartments were engulfed in water.

A damage estimate was not immediately available.

Traffic came to a standstill and cars rammed into one another as roads became impassable because of high waters, felled trees and debris. Four people were killed in vehicle accidents.

Telephone lines were cut and a large number of old buildings were so badly damaged that there were fears some would collapse.

After heavy winds and rain uprooted electric cables, utility provider Sonelgaz cut power to a number of areas to lower the risk of electrocution.

The storm disrupted the daily routine of life in the North African nation's other cities as well. Among the victims was a little girl in the western city of Oran, who died after being swept away by flood waters.

The sudden inundation followed several weeks of pronounced dryness in the region. After a 24-hour downpour, the rain had largely stopped by Saturday afternoon.

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