16 March 2010

Mozambique: Latest Toll from Central Mozambican Floods

Maputo — The current toll from the flooding in central Mozambique is six fatalities and 37 injuries, according to the government spokesperson, Deputy Justice Minister Alberto Nkutumula.

In addition, 1,924 homes have been destroyed by flooding, and 55 classrooms, four health posts and 11 places of worship have been inundated. 895 hectares of crops have been lost to the floods.

Nkutumula told reporters on Tuesday that 130,000 people had been affected by the floods in the Zambezi valley, but it had only been necessary to evacuate around 6,000 of these. Most of these people left their homes voluntarily, but in some cases the Civil Protection Unit (UNOPROC) had to use force to evacuate them.

Rainfall in central Mozambique and in neighbouring countries has slackened, said Nkutumula. The levels of the three main rivers in the centre of the country - the Zambezi, the Pungue and the Buzi - are now dropping, but all are still above flood alert level.

Food aid is needed, not only for those affected by the floods, but also for people whose crops have failed due to drought in much of southern and central Mozambique. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has informed the government that it has sufficient food to supply 178,000 families for the next two months.

One determinant factor for flooding on the lower and middle Zambezi is the amount of water discharged by the Cahora Bassa dam. The Cahora Bassa lake has acted as a gigantic buffer, absorbing much of the water released by the Kariba dam in Zambia. Nonetheless, last week the management of HCB, the company that runs Cahora Bassa, was obliged to increase discharges from the floodgates to over 4,700 cubic metres a second.

On Sunday this was cut to 3,557 cubic metres a second, but rose again to 3,930 cubic metres a second on Monday. The amount of water entering Cahora Bassa lake, however, is estimated at over 5,000 cubic metres a second. The lake's absorption capacity is far from exhausted, since it is still only three quarters full,

The weather forecast for the rest of March is encouraging, in that rainfall is expected to continue declining in central Mozambique and in the upstream countries.

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