21 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Violent Winds Strike

At least 17 people were hospitalised with broken limbs and other injuries in Mt Darwin after houses they were sleeping in collapsed due to violent winds on Sunday morning. The winds also destroyed classroom blocks at Gomo, Zambara and Chionde primary schools. The incident, which occurred around 3am, left villagers shocked and living in fear, with many of them now opting to sleep outside in case the winds recur.

The injured were ferried to Mt Darwin district hospital by an ambulance and a private vehicle belonging to a local businessman on Sunday.

Those seriously injured were transferred to Karanda Mission Hospital in Rushinga. Some of the injured had been treated and discharged by Monday.

When The Herald visited the affected families on Monday, some were preparing supper in the open, while others had built makeshift houses. Zambara Primary School headmaster Mr Francis Mashipe said the damage caused by the winds at the school was estimated at US$40 000.

"Students have started writing their end-of-year exams and we have resorted to using the remaining two blocks, so the students are taking turns to use them," he said.

Mt Darwin district administrator Mrs Gumburayi Wadzwanya, a member of the Civil Protection Unit, said they were compiling reports on the incident.

She said some donors had expressed interest in assisting the affected.

"Assistance is coming from different people, but at the moment we cannot reveal them,' said Mrs Wadzwanya.

She said the situation could have been better had the National Early Warning Unit advised the community accordingly.

Senior meteorologist Mr Elisha Moyo said the incident was a rare phenomenon.

"We have not kept records for the area and it is difficult to come up with a solid cause of the strong winds," he said.

"Our preliminary findings are pointing to a much localised system such as strong winds, thunderstorms with hail and lightning which is common during the rainy season."

Mr Moyo said the temperatures, which rose in the area the previous day, were an indicative of hail or thunder.

"The winds were too localised and they could not be picked up by computer generated weather systems which help us in forecasting," he said.

Mt Darwin meteorological officer Mr Albert Mhonda blamed the incident on desertification.

He said the wind could have done less damage had there been trees in the area.

Mr Mhonda advised families in low-lying areas to put up strong structures that can not be easily destroyed by winds.

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