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Two million homeless after Nigeria floods

Two million people in northern Nigeria have been forced out of their homes by rising waters after authorities opened the floodgates on two dams.

The sudden floods were triggered when officials opened the gates on the Challawa and Tiga dams, to let out rising waters along the Niger River.

It is not known whether the authorities put out a warning first or whether anyone was injured. But the Nigerian Red Cross said officials were investigating casualty numbers.

Homeless families have been sent to countryside schools and other government buildings out of the reach of the floodwaters, Jigawa state information commissioner Aminu Mohammed said.

"The flood has washed away all the farms and houses," Mr Mohammed said.

He said the flooding, which began in August but reached a peak on Friday, washed away more than 34 square miles of farmland as well as thousands of cattle. The cost of the damage was put at 4.5 billion naira (about £18 million).

Umar Kyari, Jigawa state’s spokesman blamed the flooding on "poor management of the water," saying the dams are often left until they are full.

"They went ahead and opened them and the water washed away anything in its way," Kyari told The Daily Telegraph newspaper. "They released water indiscriminately. That's why the water flows."

Kyari said flooding happens every year in the west African country, because of offloading the dams, but this year's is worse than past years. He stressed, though, that the "situation is under control (and) the state government is doing everything humanly possible," to help homeless families.

The agencies in charge of the two dams yesterday denied that opening the floodgates caused the floods, "This year we have had heavy rainfall almost everywhere in the country,” said Salisu Hamzat, spokesman for the Hadejia-Jama'are River Basin Development Authority. “This is actually what caused the flooding," he told Agence France Presse news service.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who is running in elections set for early next year, toured Sokoto's flooded areas last week and pledged help.

The dams are in Kano state, but about 5,000 villages in neighbouring Jigawa state have been affected.

Nigeria has strong seasonal rains that wash through the country. However, this year has seen particularly heavy rains in the north. Nigeria's weather agency had forecast low rainfall in the north, warning that more than 12 million people could face food shortages.

Hayley attribution