Maputo — Rail traffic along the Sena line, between the Moatize coal basin in Tete province and the central Mozambican port of Beira, has been interrupted since Monday, because flooding on the Zambezi river has washed away ballast on part of the line.
According to a report in Friday’s issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”, the ballast has completely disappeared from a 15 metre stretch of line between the Messito and Doa rail stations in Tete.
The Portuguese contractor Mota-Engil, involved in the current upgrading of the Sena line, is preparing to erect a small bridge in the critical area to allow traffic to resume as soon as possible.
There are an average of 12 trains a day along the line, and the main cargo is coal mined by the companies Vale and Rio Tinto.
The interruption of rail traffic is a serious blow to the mining companies, and demonstrates how fragile the mining logistics are. In theory, the Sena line can handle six million tonnes of cargo a year, but the mining companies’ forecasts are for exports on a much larger scale.
The current upgrading work may bring the total capacity of the Sena line to 20 million tonnes a year, but the delays in completing this work has led Vale to cut back its export forecasts.
Vale hopes to free itself from dependence on the Sena line by building a new railway across southern Malawi that will connect with Mozambique’s existing northern line, and carry the coal to the port of Nacala.
Meanwhile at least six villages in Nante, in Maganja da Costa district, Zambezia province, have been isolated by flooding caused by a breach in a dike in a local irrigation scheme. Boats of the National Civil Protection Unit (UNAPROC) have evacuated 132 people from the area, but an unknown number of others are still surrounded by water.
Rain is continuing to fall in northern and central Mozambique, with heavy thunderstorms reported in parts of Tete, Zambezia and Sofala on Wednesday and Thursday. The National Meteorology Institute (INAM) expects continued heavy rains in the centre and north until at least next Wednesday
The country’s main north-south highway remains cut at Amoro, in Nicoadala district, also in Zambezia. The National Roads Administration (ANE) plans to fill in the gap in the road with stones and earth on Friday as a temporary measure that should allow traffic to resume, before a metallic bridge can be put into place.
“We are putting into effect Plan B, so that the vehicles and people stranded at Amoro can reach their destinations. Then we will press ahead with a more viable technical solution”, Daniel Patel, the Zambezia provincial ANE delegate, told “Noticias”.
The Minister of Public Works, Cadmiel Muthemba, plans to visit Nicoadala on Friday to see for himself the damage caused by the torrential rains, and to visit the accommodation centres set up for flood victims.