23 January 2008

Mozambique: Zambezi Slowly Falling, But Danger Not Over

Maputo — The flood on the river Zambezi in central Mozambique is slowly subsiding over most of the river's length.

Thus at Zumbo, where the river enters Mozambican territory, by Tuesday the river had fallen to four metres, a metre below flood alert level, according to the latest bulletin issued by the National Water Board (DNA).

At Tete city the Zambezi, measured at 3.95 metres on Monday, was also well below the alert level.

Further east, the river remains very high. At Caia, the river fell from 7.65 metres on Sunday to 7.5 metres on Tuesday - but that is still two and a half metres above the alert level. Downstream, at Marromeu the level of the river has fluctuated over the past three days within a centimeter of 7.07 metres.

But at Mutarara, the district that has seen the worst of the flooding, the river was on the rise again. Here the level of the Zambezi rose from 6.12 metres on Monday to 6.57 metres on Tuesday.

The other flooded river valleys are also seeing a slow ebb of the waters. The Pungue, at Mafambisse, is still in flood, but fell from 7.46 metres on Sunday to 7.3 metres on Tuesday (the alert level at Mafambisse is six metres).

The Buzi river is no longer in flood. Measured at Goonda, it fell, over the same period, from 5.41 to 4.54 metres.

The government's relief agency, the National Disasters Management Institute (INGC) has warned against any complacency, and against any attempt by people evacuated from the flood plains to return there. For the rainy season has another two months to run, and the forecast is for heavy rains next weekend in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi, which will certainly swell the rivers flowing into Mozambique.

Rescue operations are continuing in the Zambezi Valley, to evacuate the few families still living in dangerous areas. The rescue teams have had considerable difficulty in persuading some members of these farming communities to abandon what they refer to as "our treasure" - their goats and chickens.

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