30 March 2011

Namibia: Massive Destruction in the North

Oshakati — Destruction of infrastructure by floods in the north is getting worse by the day. Residents of towns and villages here can only watch as roads, schools, mahangu fields, grazing areas, houses, shopping complexes and other infrastructure either get washed away or damaged by the power of water.

The Oshakati-Omungwelume Road is under threat. The problem started Wednesday afternoon with a little amount of water flowing on top of the road. Children in the area turned the road into an entertainment spot. This, however, only lasted for a day as the road has now turned into a river with police speedboats cruising on top of the tarred road.

Efforts to save the road proved futile as water continued to dig dipeer underneath the road. From a distance, one hears the gush of water as if from a waterfall. The road has now turned into a tourist attraction, swamped by people visiting it to watch the power of water.

Street vendors whose business spots in town are flooded have found a new place to business - an open space. This spot has become a drop-off and pick-up point for people coming and going to Omungwelume.

Taxi drivers from Osha­kati would drop off the people on the side of Oshakati who then cross the river with assistance of the police while other taxi drivers on the other side of the river wait to transport them to Omungwelume.

But as entertaining as the place could be, the damaged road means cutting off Oshakati from Omungwelume and threatening the lives of the villagers.

Elifas Haifidi, the principal of Omundudu Combined School, says he drove on the same road on Friday afternoon on his way home for a weekend but when he and two other teachers returned on Monday morning, the road had been washed away.

Haifidi and the other teachers were assisted by police speedboats across the flooded road.

Apart from police, members of the Namibian Defence Force are hard at work, filling holes in the road with sand bags. Oshana Police Regional Commander Commissioner Ndahangwapo Kashihakumwa said the officers are trying to minimise the impact so that anyone crossing the road does not slide into deep holes.

Kashihakumwa said as of yesterday, 30 people had drowned. "We went today (Monday) by helicopter to collect the body of the latest victim who fell in Oponona River at Oniizimba village of Ompundja Constituency."

Unlike in 2009 when floods affected specific areas, this time around, the only spared place is a bigger part of Ongwediva and small part of Oshakati formal settlement.

Some of the flood victims are, however, resisting evacuation. A middle-aged couple from Omphumbu village allegedly insulted police rescue officials who tried to evacuate them from their flooded home.

"They asked if we were God or the person who had sent us was God to rescue them. They said they will not leave their home until God decided otherwise and insulted us very badly," said one police official.

The couple was left to stay in their flooded homestead.

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