6 January 2006

Zimbabwe: Heavy Rains Pound Chipinge As Floods Loom

Harare — HEAVY rains started pounding Chipinge last night with Birchenough and Chiredzi expected to be affected today as the low-pressure system currently causing floods in Mozambique moves into Zimbabwe.

Torrential rains in Mozambique have already swept away 26 people, and strong indications are that heavy falls will affect the east and south-eastern districts of Zimbabwe.

Meteorological Services director Dr Amos Makarau yesterday said some heavy rains had already started pounding Chipinge by last night.

"We suspect the depression may shift to affect the rest of Zimbabwe's east and south-east districts by tomorrow (today). It cannot be overstated that the movement and development of tropical revolving systems is highly unpredictable," he said.

Dr Makarau said meteorologists in his department would continue to monitor developments and update the public on any changes.

He said from the satellite pictures, there were indications that Zimbabwe would receive a lot of rain between now and January 15.

The Parks and Wildlife Management Authority yesterday said owing to increased water run-off, there would be swelling of rivers and widespread flooding in some low-lying areas of the country.

It warned that game was under great threat as priority would be on saving people.

Parks Authority public relations officer Retired Major Edward Mbewe said one of their immediate concerns was to ensure that endangered species such as the rhino were uplifted to safer places as a precautionary measure.

"Our officers are on the ground in all low-lying areas where we have a significant number of wildlife. If there is serious flooding in any of those areas, we would drive the animals to safer areas using helicopters," he said.

Maj Mbewe said officers in the authority's Problem Animal Control Unit were also on standby to ensure people's lives were not in danger.

"When there is flooding, animals tend to run to higher ground where people also go to. Some of these animals could be anything from lions, elephants to smaller and harmless species, hence the need to make sure the unit is there to protect both people and animals," he said.

The Civil Protection Unit (CPU) yesterday said as soon as they secured a helicopter, they would visit some of the areas under threat of flooding such as Gokwe, Muzarabani, Middle Sabi, Tsholotsho, Lupane, the Limpopo River Corridor, Birchenough, Chiredzi and Chipinge.

"We want to assess the damage caused to the infrastructure by the floods that occurred before Christmas and check on how the affected people are coping," CPU director Mr Madzudzo Pawadyira said yesterday.

Local Government, Public Works and Urban Development Minister Dr Ignatius Chombo said the Government was prepared for any situation.

"I have consequently alerted all the provinces to put on standby the Provincial and District Civil Protection Committees in readiness to render assistance to communities and individuals who may succumb to the inundation and attendant problems," Dr Chombo said.

He said the CPU was working closely with the media in the issuance of regular bulletins on flooding hazards and lightning.

"I urge all people to pay particular attention to these bulletins since the information will have a bearing on daily activities during the period in question. Road users, be they public transport operators, haulage truckers or ordinary motorists, should take necessary precautions during this wet season," he said.

Dr Chombo said flooding in general tended to wash pollutants into unprotected wells in communal lands and resettlement areas.

"Those drawing water from such sources are advised to boil all the water for consumption to avoid diarrhoeal diseases.

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