From 25 to 29 August 2003, heavy torrential rains continuously fell on the city of Timbuktu. According to a detailed report by Mali's Ministry of Culture, which the Centre received on 24 September 2003, many of the city's quarters suffered damaged. Among them was the Medina, where the three mosques of Djingareyber, Sankoré and Sidi Yahia are located, as well as the 16 mausoleums inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
From 19 to 25 January 2004, Timbuktu also hosted a seminar on management plans for World Heritage properties in Mali and on the rehabilitation of Timbuktu's earthen architecture. This seminar was funded within the framework of the co-operation agreement between UNESCO and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. At the end of the seminar, the participants recognized the need for the Malian properties to swiftly adopt a management and conservation plan. They also asked UNESCO and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to begin a rehabilitation and revitalisation project for Timbuktu 's earthen architecture.
The UNESCO mission present at the January 2004 seminar had the opportunity to visit all the quarters of the city of Timbuktu that had been affected by flooding. At the end of the visits, the mission was able to make the following observations, which confirmed the report provided by the Ministry of Culture, concerning the old town:
a) Of all the quarters affected by the torrential rains, Djingareyber, Sankoré and Hamabangou suffered the most severe damage;
b) More than 50 homes collapsed in the Sankoré and Djingareyber quarters (where two of the mosques inscribed on the World Heritage List are located), leaving nearly 100 people homeless;
c) Stagnant water clogged all the pipes supplying the fountains in several quarters with fresh drinking water. In the Sankoré quarter, the fountain located on the site of the former pond stopped operating after the flood, leaving the quarter's residents in a catastrophic hygiene situation;
d) Some houses of the explorers who lived in Timbuktu were damaged by the rains and need to be restored;
e) The 16 mausoleums, which the Italian consultants inventoried during the seminar, have also suffered damage.
In order to undertake emergency measures at the property and in the buffer zone, the State Party submitted a request for emergency assistance to the World Heritage Centre in January 2004. That request, for the amount of US$ 50,000, has been made to carry out the following activities:
a) Restoration of the Djingareyber, Sankoré and Sidi Yahia mosques;
b) Restoration of the old town mausoleums;
c) Clearing of the rubble of the collapsed houses in Sankoré and Djingareyber;
d) Reconstruction of one room on the plot of each cleared house so that the homeless residents may gradually return;
e) Repairing of the fountain located on the site of the former pond in Sankoré.
In order to ensure the implementation of these restoration activities, and in compliance with the need to leave the site's universal values unaffected, ICOMOS has emphasized the necessity to develop an overall strategy in the form of a management and conservation plan that takes into account the short-term restoration needs as well as the long-term steps that will help to prevent such floods from occurring in the future. The Chairperson of the Committee approved the emergency assistance on 7 April 2004.