22 January 2013

Mozambique: Severe Flooding Likely in Limpopo Basin

South Africa's neighbouring country is warning of a national catastrophe as floodwaters continue to rise. With the number of casualties increasing, ... ( Resource: Mozambique Under Water

Maputo — As heavy rains continue to fall over southern Mozambique, serious flooding in the Limpopo Valley is feared.

From Sunday to Monday over 184 millimetres of rain fell at Combumune, on the upper Limpopo, and 163 millimetres at Xai-Xai, capital of Gaza province, near the mouth of the river.

According to the data from the National Water Board (DNA), the level of the Limpopo at Combumune rose from 6.34 metres on Sunday to 8.02 metres on Monday – over 3.5 metres above flood alert level.

At Chokwe, in the heart of the largest irrigation scheme in the country, the river also rose sharply, from 3.3 to 5.63 metres. Flood alert level here is five metres.

To make matters worse, the two main dams in the Limpopo Valley have greatly increased their discharges. The Massingir dam, on the Elephants River, the main tributary of the Limpopo, increased its discharges a hundred fold, from a mere 30 cubic metres a second on Sunday, to 3,000 cubic metres a second on Sunday. The Massingir reservoir is now over 81 per cent full, and the forecast for Tuesday is that discharges from the dam will rise to 4,000 cubic metres a second. All this water is heading for Chokwe and later to Xai-Xai.

A short distance upstream from Chokwe, the Macarretane dam, originally built to guarantee the flow of water for the irrigation scheme, is releasing even larger amounts of water. On Tuesday, to cope with the rush of water from Massingir and Combumune, the outflow from Macarretane is expected to reach 5,000 cubic metres a second.

Several villages in Chokwe district are in danger of being swamped by the Limpopo flood waters. The National Emergency Operational Centre (CENOE) has dispatched 100 troops from the National Civil Protection Unit to Chokwe to assist the district government and the Local Disaster Risk Management Committees (CLGRCs) in relief work.

On Monday, the Gaza provincial government, after an emergency meeting in Xai-Xai, sent a team to Pafuri, a locality in Chicualacuala district on the upper Limpopo, where the Mozambican, South African and Zimbabwean borders all meet, which is now completely isolated. The team is carrying foodstuffs, medicines, and chlorine to disinfect water supplies.

The other major river in southern Mozambique, the Incomati, is also rising.

At Ressano Garcia, on the South African border, the river rose from 5.49 metres on Sunday to 5.77 metres by midday on Monday. Flood alert level at Ressano Garcia is five metres.

Further downstream, at Magude, the river rose in the same period from 4.45 to 6.98 metres – almost two metres above the alert level.

The Corumana dam, on the Sabie River, a tributary of the Incomati, is now 91.6 per cent full, and on Monday was obliged to increase its discharged from 4.43 to 36.37 cubic metres a second.

On the Save river, which marks the conventional boundary between southern and central Mozambique, the level measured at Vila Franca do Save fell from 6.49 to 4.85 metres, well below the alert level of 5.5 metres. But this could easily be reversed in the coming hours, since 103 millimetres of rain fell at Massangena on the upper Save on Sunday and Monday.

The threat of a major flood on the Zambezi, in the centre of the country, seems to be receding. The river is falling at Mutarara and Caia (although, at 6.41 metres on Monday, it was still considerably above the five metre alert level at Caia). At Marromeu, nearer the mouth of the river, the Zambezi is continuing to rise and was measured at 6.3 metres on Monday, The alert level here is 4.75 metres.

The Cahora Bassa dam on the Zambezi reduced its total discharges from 2,335 to 1,900 cubic metres a second from Sunday to Monday. The Cahora Bassa reservoir is currently 63 per cent full.

The National Meteorology Institute (INAM) warns that heavy rains will continue in southern Mozambique, particularly Gaza and Inhambane provinces, on Tuesday. Rainfall could reach over 50 millimetres in 24 hours, accompanied by winds of up to 70 kilometres an hour.

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