Maputo — Since the start of the Mozambican rainy season in October, 35 people have died in storms, according to figures released on Friday at a meeting of the government’s Disaster Management Coordinating Council, chaired by Prime Minister Alberto Vaquina.
13 of the known deaths have occurred this month, and currently 25,997 people are classified as “affected” by the torrential rains.
This figure includes about 8,000 children who are unable to attend school, because their schools were swamped or damaged by the storms.
Giving a breakdown by province of the effects of the rains, the Minister of State Administration, Carmelita Namachalua, said 11,600 of the affected people are in Manica, 4,432 in Maputo city, 3,835 on Maputo province, 1,990 in Nampula and 1,914 in Zambezia.
Namachalua said that, of the 25 deaths, 12 people had been electrocuted when strong winds knocked down electricity cables, and eight were struck by lightning. Other victims were drowned as they attempted to cross rivers, were swept away by the flash floods caused by torrential rains, or were killed by crocodiles.
The government considers that the situation is still under control, Namachalua said. Local capacity exists to respond appropriately and to evacuate people from dangerous areas.
Although government institutions are in a state of readiness, and resources have already been allocated to areas at greatest risk of flooding, Namachalua said that efforts should be redoubled to ensure that that the Local Risk Management Committees remain pro-active. She took the opportunity to advise people living in high risk areas to move to higher ground to avoid further deaths.
“We urge parents and guardians to pay more attention to the movements of their children during this rainy season, to present them being swept away by the waters”, she added. “The government reiterates its commitment to working with the community to lessen the impact of the rains on the population”. Under the Contingency Plan drawn up last year, the government has already made 120 million meticais (about four million US dollars) available for relief operations, including providing food and emergency kits to victims, repairing damaged infrastructure and preventing outbreaks of disease.
Namachalua told reporters that, as from Saturday morning, the Cahora Bassa dam will discharge 650 cubic metres of water a second into the Zambezi river – which is the result of a 50 per cent opening of one of the dam’s eight floodgates. (This is less than the 1,600 cubic metres a second, which the dam operating company, in a release issued earlier ion Friday, said would be discharged.) The Minister said the discharges would create space in the Cahora Bassa lake to store any surge of water from the upstream countries, particularly from the Kariba dam, on the Zambia/Zimbabwe border. Namachalua stressed that the Cahora Bassa discharges will occur gradually so as to avid major impacts on the people living along the middle and lower Zambezia
After two days of fairly clear skies, rain began to fell on Maputo again on Friday night, though not with the same intensity as on Tuesday. Since rain is forecast to continue throughout the weekend, the Coordinating Council recommended that Maputo Municipal Council should ensure that people still living in high risk areas should be evacuated by Saturday morning.