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UN Drops Food to Trapped Somalis

December 10, 1997

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) _ After days of delay, a U.N. aircraft today dropped the first packages of food to thousands of Somalis trapped by months of flooding, a U.N. spokeswoman said.

Lindsey Davies, a World Food Program spokeswoman, said the two 8-ton wooden pallets loaded with bags of corn were successfully parachuted from a Hercules C-130 transport plane over Garbahare in the Juba Valley in southern Somalia.

``We have successfully completed the first airdrop mission,″ she said.

At least 1,500 people have drowned and more than 230,000 have been driven from their homes by two months of heavy rains that caused the Juba and Shabelle rivers to spill over towns and villages.

The Juba Valley area, about 250 miles southwest of the capital, Mogadishu, has been the worst hit. Nearly every settlement along a 60-mile stretch is under flood waters.

The relief operation has been delayed for weeks by reluctant donors who feared repetition of a 1992 U.S.-led Operation Restore Hope, which fed hundreds of thousands of hungry Somalis but ended in failure three years later when last peacekeepers had to withdraw under fire from Somali gunmen.

Somalia has no central government since the ouster of late dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in January 1991, when clan-based factions turned guns against each other.

The food drops were delayed on Monday to ensure all of Somalia’s faction leaders had agreed to it and everyone in the area was informed.

Davies said radio broadcasts had warning residents not to crowd around drop zones and not to open fire on the planes.

WFP has rented two C-130 planes from Angola and the Belgian Air Force.

The aircraft were scheduled to be reloaded at the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa and fly two rotations a day each, Davies said. She said the 1,000 tons of food airdropped over a month would be enough for 111,000 people.

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