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Nigeria floods displace 2m people

Nigerian authorities opened the gates at two swollen dams in the country's rain-soaked north, sending a flood into a neighbouring state that has displaced two million people, officials said.

Water from the Challawa and Tiga dams has swept through rural Jigawa state, bordering the nation of Niger, said Umar Kyari, a spokesman for the state governor.

Mr Kyari said the rising waters have affected about 5,000 villages in the typically arid region approaching the Sahara Desert.

"They released water indiscriminately," Mr Kyari said.

It was not immediately clear whether residents received a warning or if anyone was injured or went missing in the flooding. Officials typically open dams seasonally in the region, but it appears far more water flowed out than residents expected.

Jigawa is home to four million people, so half of the state's population has been displaced by the flooding.

Nigeria, an oil-rich nation of 150 million in West Africa, has strong seasonal rains that wash through the country. However, this year has seen particularly strong rains in the north that have already broken a dam and flowed over levees in another northern state.

Local officials had begun putting displaced families in rural schoolhouses and other government buildings out of the reach of the floodwaters, Jigawa state information commissioner Aminu Mohammed said. However, Mr Mohammed said the water had reached the border with neighbouring Yobe state. "The flood has washed away all the farms and houses," Mr Mohammed said.

In Nigeria's northwest state of Sokoto, floodwater topped levees and a dam failed during recent flooding, spilling water into surrounding villages. Local newspapers reported as many as 40 people died.

Seyi Soremekun, a spokesman for the Nigerian Red Cross, said officials were working on casualty figures from the flooding. He said volunteers have already reached Jigawa and Sokoto states to offer assistance., adding: "I think the most pressing need is how to put the victims, those affected, in shelter from the harsh weather. They need blankets; they need some personal effects to at least deal with or absorb the shock of displacement."

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