15 January 2013

Namibia: Early Floods Swamp Chotto and Cowboy

Photo: Hezron Ochiel/IRIN
File Photo of Children walking on submerged foot paths as a result of flash floods.

Close to 18 households in the densely populated Chotto and Cowboy locations at Katima Mulilo have been relocated to higher ground due to heavy rains experienced in the Caprivi Region over the past few weeks.

Meanwhile, the Zambezi River continues to rise steadily at Katima Mulilo due to the unrelenting downpours in the eastern parts of Angola and the western parts of Zambia, which constitute the headwaters of the Kwando and Zambezi rivers. The water level in the Zambezi River currently stands at 1.7 metres.

In an interview with New Era yesterday, Caprivi Regional Governor, Lawrence Sampofu, said the heavy rainfall hit the residents of Chotto and Cowboy the hardest, and that is why some households have been relocated to higher ground since last week.

"The houses that were flooded are those along the valley. The regional and town councils have provided tents to the affected people and they have been moved to higher ground in Chotto," he said. Sampofu said the authorities at Katima Mulilo have already provided sanitation and potable water to affected residents to pre-empt the outbreak of disease.

He said there is no need to distribute food relief aid at present, since the situation is under control and the relocated families are able to take care of themselves.

The governor expressed relief that no death or casualties have been reported so far. "Some houses, especially those made of mud and reeds, have collapsed, but the permanent structures are still standing although water has entered the houses," he added.

Moreover, residents of the surrounding villages have not been affected by the flooding, the governor said. "If the Zambezi River reaches six to seven metres high then it can affect the villagers. However, it is still raining too much and a lot of water is coming from Angola and Zambia making the upper Zambezi full," according to him.

Unlike last year when more than eight schools had to be closed due to flooding, no school has yet been affected by the heavy rainfall.

About 1 500 households have been relocated permanently to the Salambala Conservancy from settlements dotting the flood-prone Kabbe Constituency.

In an earlier interview, the governor said there are still challenges with the delivery of services such as schools, clinics, roads and water provision for many people, and authorities are working around the clock to find solutions, which include persuading people living in flood-prone areas to relocate to higher ground.

It has also been reported that heavy rains destroyed most roads in and outside Katima Mulilo. In the town of Katima Mulilo itself the rains have damaged many roads and potholes are appearing everywhere, endangering motorists.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry geologist, Leonard Hango, the water levels at Katima Mulilo may reach the first critical range, which is between 3.5m and 4m towards the end of January or the beginning of February. "At these levels the overflow in the Zambezi floodplains normally starts and then inhibits easy access to the area," Hango said.

According to him the Zambian Metrological Department predicted a further increase in rainfall over the western half of Zambia today. He said the flow of water in the Cuvelai delta systems, which flow into the Kunene, Kavango and Kwando rivers on Namibia's northern borders, is fairly stable.

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