7 February 2013

Mozambique: Fears of Fresh Rise in Limpopo

Maputo — Continued heavy rains in South Africa and Zimbabwe threaten to cause another flood surge down the Limpopo River in the southern Mozambican province of Gaza.

According to Rute Nhamucho, head of the Department of Water Resources in the National Water Board (DNA), between Tuesday and Wednesday the Limpopo was measured as flowing at 1,300 cubic metres a second at Beit Bridge on the South Africa/Zimbabwe border.

Taking into account forecast of further heavy rain, the prediction is that a flood surge of 4,000 cubic metres a second will pass through Combumune, on the upper stretches of the river within Mozambique, in the next two days.

Within four days this flood surge, reduced to 3,000 cubic metres a second, will reach the town of Chokwe.

Currently, the Limpopo at Chokwe has fallen to well below flood alert level, which has allowed teams from UNAPROC (National Civil Protection Unit) to start cleaning the town up, after it was completely inundated by the January flood surge.

The new surge is likely to push the Limpopo at Chokwe above the alert level of five metres. “Under normal conditions, this flow could be absorbed”, said Nhamucho, “but under current circumstances it is difficult to forecast what might happen”.

The current surge is much below the flows attained by the river in mid-January. The flow that entered Mozambique on 19 January was measured at around 10,000 cubic metres a second. But the soils are now completely saturated, so that the rising river could easily spread out again across the Chokwe flood plain.

Most of the population of Chokwe town and of the villages of Chokwe district are currently living in temporary accommodation centres, and with the Limpopo threatening to burst its banks again, it is unlikely that they will go home any time soon.

Nhamucho also warned that the Umbeluzi River (which supplies Maputo with its drinking water) is on the rise. The Pequenos Libombos dam is now almost 92 per cent full. This dam normally releases only five cubic metres a second into the river, but that figure has now risen to 24 cubic metres a second.

In the centre of the country, the Zambezi remains above alert level on its lower reaches, at Caia and Marromeu, and the Pungoe river is still in alert at the Mafambisse sugar plantation, although both rivers are gradually falling.

In Zambezia province, the Licungo River has fallen to below alert level at both the Gurue and Mocuba measuring stations – but there are still fears that the river will inundate crop land further south, in Maganja da Costa district.

The torrential rains in northern Mozambique have swollen streams running through the city of Nampula, where hundreds of flimsy houses have collapsed. The governor of Nampula province, Cidalia Chauque, has threatened the compulsory evacuation of people living on the banks of two streams (the Muhala and Mutomote) which have been declared areas of high risk for housing.

Cited in Thursday’s issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”, Chauque said “With this measure, we want to avoid further loss of lives and of property. We know from the meteorological services that the rains haven’t ended and will continue in the coming period”.

The provincial government is working with the Nampula Municipal Council, she said, to identify areas where the families evacuated can be definitively resettled.

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