Maputo — The rise in the level of Limpopo has already claimed at least four lives in the southern Mozambican province of Gaza, according to data published by the country’s relief agency, the National Disaster Management Institute (INGC).
In Mabalane district two people died when the walls of a house collapsed on top of them. A further 89 houses built of mud collapsed in the locality of Combumune.
Another house collapse in Guija district took the life of a one year old child, and the same incident injured a child of three. Another child drowned in a well in Mucomane village in Mandlakazi district.
In Chigubo town, which is on the Changane river, a tributary of the Limpopo, 166 houses have collapsed.
In Massingir district, three villages have been isolated by the flood waters, and two primary schools have been inundated.
Even before the flood surge travelling down the Limpopo has reached the city of Xai-Xai, capital of the southern Mozambican province of Gaza, hundreds of Xai-Xai homes were inundated by the torrential rains that occurred between Saturday and Monday.
405 houses were flooded in this period. Outside the city, in Xai-Xai district, five schools were flooded, and an as yet unquantified area of cropland was submerged.
The local government is using tractors to evacuate people and their property from flood prone areas in Xai-Xai District, while in Guija people living in dangerous areas are being urged to move to higher ground, before the main flood surge strikes. On the opposite bank of the river, in Chokwe, some 55,000 people are at risk.
Thanks to the government’s contingency plan for the rainy season, drawn up last year, there are 30 boats pre-positioned on the main rivers, ready for any search and rescue operations. Twelve of these boats are on the Limpopo (ten at Chokwe and two at Chibuto).
160 troops of the National Civil Protection Unit (UNAPROC) have been deployed to the river valleys, and 110 of these are in Chokwe.
At 14.00 on Tuesday, the Limpopo at Chokwe was measured at 6.63 metres, more than one and a half metres above the flood alert level of five metres.
The main flood surge has yet to reach Chokwe and so the river is continuing to rise.
At Combumune, on the upper Limpopo, the river is now falling. It reached a historic high point of 11.88 metres on Tuesday morning, but by midday had fallen to 11.6 metres.
Another flood surge is moving down the Incomati river in Maputo province.
At the town of Magude, the Incomati rose from 4.45 metres on Sunday, to 6.63 metres on Monday and 7.53 metres on Tuesday. The alert level at Magude is also five metres.
On its lower reaches, the Zambezi River is now dropping but is still above alert level at Caia and Marromeu. The Cahora Bassa dam is cushioning the impact of heavy rains in the upstream countries. Although the dam lake is receiving an inflow of 4,800 cubic metres of water per second, less than half of that is being released through the dam wall. The dam was discharging around 2,200 cubic metres a second on Monday, but on Tuesday reduced this to 1,900 metres a second.
The Cahora Bassa lake is 63.4 per cent full, and so still has room to store water surging into the lake from the Kariba dam on the Zambia/Zimbabwe border.