Maputo — The Mozambican government is mobilizing two light aircraft to assist in rescue operations for people surrounded by flood waters in the Limpopo basin, particularly in the districts of Chokwe and Guija, which face each other across the Limpopo river.
On Thursday, the Deputy Minister of State Administration, Jose Tsambe, flew over the flooded areas, and could see many people clinging onto trees or stranded on rooftops.
Tsambe instructed the troops of UNAPROC (National Civil Protecton Unit) to leave Chokwe town and move to Chilembene, a critically affected area of Chokwe district. By midday on Thursday, UNAPROC had rescued 49 people in Chilembene, and the operations continued into the afternoon.
Three accommodation centres have been set up for flood victims, at Chihaquelane and Hokwe, in Chokwe district, and at Javanhane, in Guija. But the numbers fleeting from the flood zones are so large that the centres cannot accommodate them all, and do not have enough food.
According to Ana Cristina, an official of the Mozambican relief agency, the National Disasters Management Institute (INGC), briefing the Minister of State Administration, Carmelita Namashulua, on Thursday, there were now 500 families at Chihaquelane, and there were not enough tents or food for them.
People without tents are sheltering under trees.
To deal with this crisis, a further five tonnes of foodstuffs arrived at Chihaquelane on Thursday.
Although the flood waters at Chokwe are now receding, families are likely to stay in the accommodation centres for a considerable time, until they have rebuilt their homes. The flood completely swept away huts and other houses made of flimsy materials. Even brick houses will need time to dry out and become habitable again.
But attentions are now switching to the city of Xai-Xai, capital of Gaza province, near the mouth of the Limpopo. The flood wave is moving inexorably down the Limpopo and is forecast to hit Xai-Xai on Saturday.
Low-lying parts of the city, near the banks of the river will inevitably be flooded. The waters will also spread out across the farmland surrounding the city. It is calculated that 23 per cent of Xai-Xai district will be submerged.
By Thursday afternoon more than a thousand families had been evacuated from the villages most at risk in Xai-Xai district. The INGC has warned that if people do not accept the recommendations to leave their homes, they will be forcibly evacuated.
According to Rute Nhamucho, head of the water resource department in the National Water Board (DNA), in some places the river has risen even higher than the records set during the massive Limpopo floods of 2000. However, this time the effects are not as damaging as in 2000, she explained, because “this year we have one high flood peak that lasts a short time, whereas in 2000 we had several flood peaks, all of them high and lasting a long time”.
Meanwhile, President Armando Guebuza has cancelled a planned visit to Addis Ababa on Sunday and Monday, where he was to have attended a heads of state summit of the African Union
According to a statement from Guebuza’s office, the worsening flood situation persuaded Guebuza that he should stay at home “so that he can continue to follow closely the operations that are under way”.