The Herald (Harare)

12 December 2012

Zimbabwe: AFZ Ready to Rescue Flood Victims

The Air Force of Zimbabwe says it is well equipped to deal with floods that might occur in the country's low lying areas this rainy season. Air Vice Marshal Sheba Shumbayaonda yesterday said the AFZ had set aside adequate equipment and resources in case of flooding. The Meteorological Services Department has warned people in flood prone areas and poorly drained soils to be on alert, as heavy rains, strong winds and thunderstorms are expected in some parts of the country.

"As AFZ we prepare ourselves in advance. Our aircraft is serviced and we have enough fuel and manpower to respond to any disaster. We are on high alert because hardly a year passes without people being trapped in those flood prone areas," he said.

Air Vice Marshal Shumbayaonda said the AFZ was having challenges in securing spare parts for the planes because of the West's illegal sanctions regime.

"The parts are bought outside the country and with sanctions it is difficult to get them. We end up getting them through third or fourth parties which becomes expensive. We are however, doing our best to ensure that our people are safe," he said.

The weather forecast indicated that there would be a propensity of violent thunderstorms that would be accompanied by gust winds and hailstorms.

Air Vice Marshal Shumbayaonda said it was critical for people to listen to warnings and observe rainfall activity before leaving their houses.

The CPU has already indicated that national disaster response mechanisms were firmly in place. The department said all flood-prone areas had been visited and communities taught how to react to flood situations.

Traditional flash floods areas are Muzarabani, Gokwe North and South, Middle Sabi, Beitbridge, Malipati and Tsholotsho in Matabeleland North. Personnel from the Civil Protection Unit, ZRP sub-aqua unit, Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, Meteorological Services Department and Zinwa have visited the areas on awareness campaigns on survival tactics. The United Nations Development Programme has donated five 4x4 all-terrain vehicles to be used to monitor the situation on the ground. The vehicles would be stationed in the hot spots.

The weather outlook showed that some of the areas could be affected by flash floods as a result of one or two cyclones from the Mozambican channel. Silted rivers could also pose challenges in the event of floods as they would "easily burst their banks" leading to flooding. Local authorities in some of the areas have been accused of allowing people to build in low-lying areas that are susceptible to flooding.

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