Police in the Jonglei state capital Bor in South Sudan say at least four people including children have drowned in floodwaters since Thursday.
The Jonglei state police commissioner says water levels are neck high or about two meters deep in some areas.
Bor resident Stephen Maliet Diing-Duiwut said his stepmother, Adau Biar Atem, 58, drowned Sunday while trying to gather belongings and evacuate her flooded home in the Lekyak neighborhood.
He told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus program his stepmother was wading through 2-meter-deep water when she drowned.
“Her home was flooded and there was some luggage that was in the house so she went there and she was trying to remove the luggage to a certain place. Unfortunately, she fell down and because that place was a bit deep, she drowned,” said Diing-Duiwut.
Atem’s body is being kept in a mortuary because the cemetery is flooded, according to Diing-Duiwut.
“The burial place is not known up to now because the previous cemetery is already flooded, so as the family we will be asking the government of Jonglei to ask if they have [another] place for people to be buried,” he told VOA.
Jonglei state police commissioner Major General Joseph Mayen Akoon confirmed the death toll and warned it could rise over the next few days.
“There is a young boy named Amol Parach who drowned at Hai-Machuor; he was found floating on the water. Another guy named Gai Reech Thiong died at the site of Achengdiir. I am told Gai was sick and trying to cross the water where he drowned,” Akoon told VOA.
The River Nile continues to overflow, causing widespread flooding in Bor. Some residents have used plastic sheets folded up like canoes to carry children, food, and other belongings to dry ground, but Akoon warned the sheets are flimsy and could cause more people to drown if they are used as flotation devices.
Bol Deng Bol, executive director of Intrepid South Sudan, a Bor-based civil society organization, said people are doing whatever they can to escape the floodwaters because the government has done next to nothing in terms of assistance since President Salva Kiir declared a state of emergency in Jonglei state three months ago.
Asking youth to close the dyke is not enough, said Bol.
“The state of emergency is supposed to involve other organs of the government, not only the executive in the state where the secretary general or government will say, ‘Let’s do this or that.’ The government should involve themselves in the real doing, you know, in work; in this sense I mean the organized forces of the government, including the army,” Bol told South Sudan in Focus.
In mid-September, when a broken dyke had flooded the Marol Market in Bor town, Jonglei state acting administrator Duom Kuol Ageer urged everyone, including the international community in Bor, to help repair the structure due to the state government’s limited resources, saying, “If people are not serious, the water will take over.”
Ageer said those in the “public sector, private sector, business community, local person or foreigner” should “fight” the water, adding that if the water overtakes the town, “the only option is to evacuate.”
Some 350,000 Jonglei state residents have been displaced by flooding since July, including about 180,000 in Bor town, according to the South Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission.