June 26, 2020 / 3:49 PM / 7 days ago

Ivory Coast flash floods kill at least seven, more rain expected

* Rescue operation still ongoing

* Floods well above level for maximum alert

* Cocoa famers fear impact on crop

ABIDJAN, June 26 (Reuters) - At least seven people have died in flash floods following torrential rains that have pummelled Ivory Coast’s main city Abidjan in the past couple of days, authorities said on Friday.

More rainfall is expected on Friday and Saturday, the country’s meteorological services said, heralding more destruction in the country’s oceanside commercial capital.

Battering rain quickly overwhelmed the city’s drainage system on Thursday, flooding major thoroughfares, some of which are barely above sea level. Cars and debris were swept away by the torrent and residents in low-lying homes had to seek safety.

“In some places, the rainfall could reach 300 millimetres (a foot) today, or six times the threshold for a critical alert,” Vincent Toh Bi Irié, the administrative head of the Abidjan area, said on his Facebook page on Friday, referring to the maximum level in the meteorological warning system.

He urged residents not venture into flood risk areas and said people in neighborhoods at risk of landslides should leave.

Amankou Gabin, the head of the civil protection unit, told Reuters the provisional death toll was at seven between Thursday and Friday, adding that rescue operations were still ongoing.

Measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus mean movement out of the greater Abidjan area, where infections are clustered, is restricted and a midnight to dawn curfew is in place.

The West African nation’s April to end-October rainy season sometimes cause deadly floods and landslides.

Gabin said a lack of respect for planning laws had made the situation worse, citing homes built in storm basins meant to carry rainwater to Abidjan’s crocodile-infested lagoon.

Farmers in key cocoa-growing regions told Reuters this week they were concerned the rain could flood crops and hamper their transport to the coast. Exporters in the world’s top cocoa producer are due to report on port arrivals on Monday. (Reporting by Ange Aboa and Loucoumane Coulibaly; writing by Bate Felix; editing by Edward McAllister and Philippa Fletcher)

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