NEWBURYPORT — After hearing that its sister school's city, Qardho, Somalia, was hit by devastating flash floods earlier this week, several Newburyport High School students quickly launched a GoFundMe page to assist with the recovery.
During a Zoom call with students and staff from both cities Thursday, Qardho Superintendent Abdullahi Abdi Ali discussed how the heavy rain and flooding damaged more than 2,600 buildings, destroying at least 150.
While the area has a long history of flooding, Ali said he hasn't seen damage like this in close to 15 years. The impact left more than 800 families without food, shelter and clothing.
"In some houses, people were swimming like the sea," he said, adding that the floodwaters were about 9 feet high. "There are a lot of injuries and lots of loss."
Though some schools were damaged by the flooding, other schools are serving as shelters for those displaced, Ali said, explaining how they are all trying to help each another.
One Qardho student, Ridwan, shared his story of trying to navigate the streets, saying "most of the houses were wrecked," which made it difficult to find neighbors.
With this in mind, the superintendent said COVID-19 is no longer the most pressing issue. The city is focused on distributing food such as rice and flour to those in need, as well as providing shelter and clothing.
Looking to the future, Ali said the city needs to build a dam or similar structure to handle flooding.
"That is a sustainable solution," he said. "The immediate solution is to get shelter, food and clean water to people."
The sister school program is a collaboration with the One World Strong Foundation and Newburyport resident Dave Fortier. Newburyport High School students and One World Strong have raised $350 for the cause so far. They will be wiring money to Qardho, as it comes in, to help with purchasing recovery supplies.
To see a previous article about this program, go to www.newburyportnews.com/news/local_news/technology-helps-students-bridge-an-ocean/article_b0ab67b0-bc62-56cd-aa3f-9bf8e475e795.html.