Maputo — The flood surge that hit the southern Mozambican town of Chokwe on Wednesday pushed the level of the Limpopo river to 9.8 metres, not far short of the highest levels ever recorded at Chokwe.
According to the latest bulletin from the National Water Board (DNA), the Limpopo at Chokwe, where the flood alert level is five metres, rose very rapidly, from 5.63 metres on Monday to 6.36 metres on Tuesday, and to 9.8 metres on Wednesday.
The Wednesday measurement was take at 09.00, and the river may well have risen higher during the day. The highest point reached by the Limpopo at Chokwe during the catastrophic floods of February 2000 was over 10 metres.
On the opposite bank of the river, the small town of Canicado has also been engulfed by the flood. There is no safe way of crossing the Limpopo, since the bridge between Chokwe and Canicado is under water.
The Chokwe district and municipal administrations have moved out of the town, and so have the police. As the flood waters advanced, criminals got to work, and looting of shops and bottle stores was reported.
The town is completely submerged with water up to two metres deep in Chokwe streets. The only way to move around the town is in small boats.
The flood waters are moving downstream towards the Gaza provincial capital, Xai-Xai. So far the Limpopo at Xai-Xai is well below alert level, but it had risen from 1.89 metres on Tuesday, to three metres on Wednesday morning.
The other major river in southern Mozambique, the Incomati, is also in flood. At the town of Magude, the river rose to 7.97 metres on Wednesday, almost three metres above the alert level.
In the centre of the country, the Zambezi river is dropping, but is still above alert level at Caia and Marromeu on its lower reaches.
The height of the Pungoe river is virtually stationary at the Mafambisse sugar plantation in Sofala province. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday it was measured at 7.04 metres, just over a metre above the alert level of six metres.
Several smaller rivers in the south of the country are also above alert level. These include the Jangamo and Inhanombe rivers in Inhambane province, though both these rivers are now beginning to drop.
The DNA recommends that members of the public avoid attempts to cross the swollen rivers, and ensure that all equipment (such as pumps and agricultural machinery) is moved to safe areas.