30 January 2013

Namibia: Kabbe Readies for Mass Evacuation

Windhoek — The Caprivi Regional Disaster Risk Management Committee (CRDRM) is fully prepared to evacuate villagers in the flood-hit Kabbe Constituency following the rapid rise of the Zambezi River.

The rapid rise in the level of the river has washed away many roads leaving thousands of people, including school-going children, stranded and cut off completely from accessing vital services. Governor of the Caprivi Region Lawrence Sampofu says the Zambezi River is rising so fast that in four days it rose by over a metre.

On Friday the level of the river stood at 3.22m and the next day (Saturday) it rose to 3.53m. By Sunday the river rose to 3.91m and by Monday it had reached 4.29m. When measured yesterday the level stood at 4.55m.

In four days the water level of the river rose by 1.32m. "This means that the Zambezi River will now flow into smaller valleys in the flood-prone areas and flood homes," Sampofu explained. The planned evacuation is expected to kick off next week, because the water is said to be moving too fast already and leaving many villages completely isolated.

"We will start evacuating schools and villagers by next week to higher ground. These flood waters are from Zambia and Angola," he said. "The region is ready. The regional council has four boats and also the ferry Richard Kapelwa Kabajani to evacuate the affected communities. We also have enough tents. We will only inform the Prime Minister's Office to assist with ordering food from the local millers. Everything is ready, including health and sanitation facilities," Sampofu informed New Era.

He said since the floods started threatening some weeks ago, villagers have also been informed to relocate to higher grounds instead of waiting for disaster to strike, like in the past. "Most of them are however reluctant. And also most of their crops are already under water, which means there will be a poor harvest in some areas such as Lisikili, Schuckmannsburg and Namiyundu among other villages that are located along the Zambezi River," he said.

Meanwhile, Kabbe Constituency Councillor Raphael Mbala said although the regional council has some flood relief supplies, there is still a huge need to keep the Prime Minister's Office abreast of developments as they unfold on the ground.

"We have to alert them now so that when we start evacuating people we will have food and all other necessities," Mbala said. He also pledged to send an advance team to the affected communities in order for them to be prepared prior to the evacuation process.

The team is expected to be dispatched to the affected villages on Thursday and will return on Saturday to provide feedback to the authorities and the CRDRM. Mbala is calling on the Prime Minister's Office to come on board to assist with the clearing of the areas to which people will be relocated.

"Imagine these areas have not been occupied since 2011. There is a lot of bush and snakes. We need a grader to de-bush the area so these people can stay there." Although several schools have already been cut off since last week, classes have not yet been interrupted as children cross the water using dugout canoes. No injuries or deaths have been reported.

Floods have also started threatening the Kalimbeza national rice project, which has not even harvested much yet. "The floodwater is moving towards the farm and in two weeks' time it is likely we will be flooded," Patrick Kompeli, agricultural research technician in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry told New Era yesterday.

At the moment, Kompeli said, they have harvested a mere 1.5-hectares (ha) of the 40 ha under cultivation. "We normally expect the floods by March, but this year the floods have arrived earlier before we could harvest. It means it will destroy the plantations and we will have a poor harvest," he indicated.

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