The Herald (Harare)

23 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Cpu Rescues 34 Marooned Villagers in Beitbridge

The Beitbridge Civil Protection Unit yesterday rescued 34 villagers marooned for the past three days on a delta along the Limpopo River in Tshikwalakwala. The rescue mission which lasted 30 minutes was conducted with the assistance of a helicopter from the Air Force of Zimbabwe.

The victims were airlifted from Mapho area to safety atTshikwalakwala Clinic.

The villagers, most of them from seven families, were left stranded when their six huts were destroyed by torrential rains which have been pounding the district for the past eight days.

The Air Force of Zimbabwe has been kept busy since Monday when it rescued five people who were stranded across the Bubi River after a bridge was swept away by floods in Tshikwalakwala.

AFZ dispatched a helicopter that rescued the stranded villagers after the Civil Protection Unit had raised alarm.

The district received 139mm of rain between Saturday and Sunday night.

The latest figures bring to 110 people stranded following the heavy rains in Beitbridge East this week.

A bridge at Tshikwalakwala linking Beitbridge and Chiredzi district through the Bubi River was also swept away on Monday morning.

Beitbridge Civil Protection Unit chairman Mr Simon Muleya said nine people had died due to flooding in the area.

The CPU had distributed 130 tents, mosquito nets, kitchen utensils and several blankets for the victims from the International Organisation for Migration and Red Cross Zimbabwe.

The district also received a truck from their national office to transport supplies to all the affected areas.

Mr Muleya said the victims also received food hampers, 480 bars of soap, 990 fleece blankets and 1 000 buckets among other non-food stuffs.

He said authorities were mobilising resources to build two-roomed houses for the victims.

Beitbridge Senator Cde Tambudzani Mohadi also donated food hampers and clothing items to the floods victims at Tshikwalakwala and Chituripasi.

The heavy rains have also left a trail of destruction in the district where most roads were left impassable.

AFZ director of operations Group Captain Alphious Gwata said that they would remain on alert.

"In the face of warnings from the Meteorological Services Department that rains will continue, AFZ will remain ready to dispatch personnel and equipment to save lives of those threatened by floods," he said.

During the past week, AFZ has also conducted three rescue operations along the Save River in Manicaland and Gokwe's Chirara area, rescuing more than 80 people from the danger of floods.

According to a Meteorological Services Department report, clear weather was expected to prevail starting yesterday until the weekend when more rains are expected.

"During this period, most of the rains should be confined mainly to the Mashonaland Provinces, Harare, and the North of Manicaland," the report stated.

The Met Dept recorded rainfall activity that occurred over most parts of the country with the highest falls being recorded at Wedza, which had 32mm, Buhera 27mm, Kadoma 21mm and Zvishavane 19mm.

The Met Dept, however, advised that the rains would increase from Sunday onwards and urged people residing in low-lying areas to seek shelter on higher ground should they notice that their areas were under threat of flooding.

The weather experts also warned people against taking shelter under trees during a thunderstorm to avoid being struck by lightning.

Expectations are that there should be a gradual increase in rainfall activity to cover much of the country from 27 January onwards.

Ninety-six people have drowned while 33 were struck by lightning across the country since the beginning of the rainy season.

The heavy rains have also destroyed 180 houses in Tsholotsho leaving the families homeless.

In Beitbridge, Zimbabwe and South Africa were on Monday forced to stop both vehicular and human traffic after the bridge at the border post was flooded on Sunday night.

The CPU has also reported major flooding of rivers in Gokwe such as Ume, Sesame and Sengwa with several people being marooned on some of them.

According to the police, most people drowned after attempting to cross flooded rivers, while others had vehicles they were travelling in swept away in flooded rivers and bridges.

The Met Dept has warned that both private and public vehicles should not attempt to cross-flooded or low-lying bridges.

It has also warned people against attempting to cross-flooded streams or rivers, and to quickly move to higher ground if they notice their area becoming flooded.

Motorists were advised to refrain from parking their vehicles under big old trees which were likely to give way to heavy winds and to desist from attempting to cross flooded, low lying bridges.

Police have received reports of 14 people who have drowned after their vehicles were swept away at flooded rivers and bridges in separate incidents this month.

Tobacco farmers were urged to seek insurance for their crop against hail damage to avoid loss from the expected rains.

The highest rainfall totals recorded from 1 October to 21 January are:

Mukandi - 973 mm, Hwange - 893 mm, Gokwe - 764 mm, Nyanga - 756 mm, Chisengu - 734 mm, Rusape - 694 mm, Murehwa - 657 mm, Henderson - 650mm, Mutoko - 627 mm and Harare Belvedere - 624 mm.

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