25 January 2011

Mozambique: Three Die in Nampula Flooding

Maputo — Three people, two of them children, died on Sunday, in the northern Mozambican province of Nampula, when they were swept away by the waters of the Mecutane river, swollen by torrential rains earlier in the day.

According to a report in Tuesday's issue of the Maputo daily "Noticias", the bodies of the two children were recovered on Monday morning, but that of the adult has not yet been found.

In the centre of the country, the Zambezi and the Pungoe rivers are continuing to rise. Three districts on the banks of the Zambezi - Mutarara, Tambara and Chemba, in Tete, Manica, and Sofala provinces, respectively - are now cut off from the rest of the country, because dozens of Zambezi valley roads have become impassable.

One major factor in the rise in the level of the Zambezi is the increase in discharges from the Cahora Bassa dam. As from Saturday the dam increased its discharges from 1,900 to over 3,500 cubic metres a second. This was largely due to the opening of floodgates on the Kariba dam further upstream.

The Zambezi has burst its banks in Caia district, Sofala province, and several houses have been submerged, but there are no reports of any loss of life.

Casimiro Abreu, the deputy general director of the country's relief agency, the National Disasters Management Institute (INGC), told Radio Mozambique that, although several rivers are above flood alert level, "the situation is under control, despite localised flooding'.

"The fact that districts have been isolated does not mean that we are unable to assist those affected", said Abreu, "since we have various means of reaching there".

He added that around 35,000 people who had been living on the banks of the Zambezi, or on islands in the river, had heeded the calls to move to higher ground, and are currently accommodated in safe areas.

"There is some resistance to abandoning dangerous areas", he admitted. "But this involves a fairly small number of people farming on the islands, and who are currently harvesting their crops. People are aware of the flood risk and we are monitoring the situation'.

Further south, the Pungoe has burst its banks and inundated crops in Nhamatanda and Dondo districts. Should the river rise much higher it will spill onto the Beira-Zimbabwe road. During previous Pungoe floods, traffic along this highway has sometimes become impossible.

The Save river, which marks the boundary between Sofala and Inhambane provinces has also burst its banks, inundating parts of Govuro and Machanga districts. But since Sunday, the level of the Save has been falling.

Nonetheless a company of sailors from the Mozambican navy and local fishermen are on hand, should rescue operations prove necessary.

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