Tunisian Flood Disasters In 1973

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By Paul Homewood

For those who think it never floods in North Africa, take a look at the Tunisian floods in April 1973, which killed at least 52, with a further 33 missing:


Below is the Case Report from the US Aid Department:


The terrible disaster led to a major rescue effort by the US Sixth Fleet:

“The Government has not yet fully assessed the extent of the damage to crops, livestock and property, but it is estimated that there have been 86 killed, plus 33 missing, 53,000 people left without shelter and 6,000 houses destroyed or damaged. About 10,000 cattle have been lost, including high‐priced Arabian colts and Dutch cows.

Late March floods struck the most productive agricultural areas of the north and northwest, but they did not damage the country’s principal tourism areas along the coast.

The waters of the Medjerda River, flowing through northwestern Tunisia, rose at one point to 40 feet, flooding wheat fields and gardens.

Tunisia’s appeal for help was promptly answered by her immediate neighbors and the United States Sixth Fleet based in the Mediterranean. American pilots found themselves working side by side with Libyan and Italian crews in rescue operations or in dropping supplies to isolated areas.

President Habib Bourguiba in decorating officers of the rescue missions—among them Rear Adm. Frederick C. Turner and Capt. James B. Linder, commanding officer of the American aircraft carrier Forrestal—paid special tribute to the Sixth Fleet, saying that it “is our shield in the Mediterranean.”

President Bourguiba stressed that America was Tunisia’s “firm friend” and the Sixth Fleet “a friend we can count on in time of need.” Observers were struck by the phrase since Tunisia in the last two years has been vigorously advocating “the Mediterranean for the Mediterraneans” and the exclut sion of foreign fleets from its water.

1,000 Are picked Up

After Tunisia’s call for aid, the Forrestal, the amphibious ship Ponce and the guided missile destroyer Sampson steamed into Tunis Bay within a matter of hours. Aircraft of the rescue force flew more than 100 individual sorties and picked uip more than 1,000 Tunisians from trees, rooftops and flood waters of the Medjerda.

Many thousands received food, water, blankets and medical supplies. Men of the Forrestal baked and donated more than a thousand loaves of bread.”

Later in the same year, more people died in the next Tunisia floods: