Maputo — The Pungue river, in the central Mozambican province of Sofala, has burst its banks and swept across the road from Beira to Zimbabwe.
The river has invaded the road along a stretch between Mutua and Tica, in Nhamatanda district, about 80 kilometres west of Beira. This is an area that has frequently been flooded by the Pungue in previous rainy seasons.
Traffic has not yet been interrupted along the road, but on Wednesday the National Roads Administration (ANE) began signposting the critical parts of the road in an attempt to avoid traffic accidents.
The Sofala provincial director of transport, Elcio Kanda, cited in Thursday's issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”, urged motorists to drive carefully along the flooded stretch, and to avoid using it at night.
According to the latest hydrological bulletin, issued by the National Water Board (DNA), the level of the Pungoe, measured at the Mafambisse sugar plantation, has risen steadily since Monday. On Wednesday morning it stood at 7.94 metres, almost two metres above flood alert level.
The weather forecast is for a further 50 millimetres of rain in Sofala on Thursday and Friday, which will certainly worsen the situation along the lower Pungoe valley.
The Save river, which marks the boundary between Sofala and Inhambane provinces is also swollen, due mainly to heavy rains in Zimbabwe.
At the town of Vila Franca do Save, where the flood alert level is 5.5 metres, the river was measured at 6.02 metres on Wednesday morning.
At Mambone, near the mouth of the river, the river reached a maximum height of 4.6 metres on Tuesday - and then the rising waters submerged the measuring equipment.
“We have floods on the lower Pungue, in Mafambisse, and we are concerned with the Save basin”, declared Castro Junior, a spokesperson for the Central Regional Water Board (ARA-Centro).
The country's largest river, the Zambezi, is above flood alert level along some of its middle and lower reaches, but the situation is not yet regarded as critical.
At Mutarara, in Tete province, the river has been rising steadily all week, and on Wednesday was ten centimeters above the alert level of five metres.
Further downstream, at Caia, the Zambezi was 40 centimetres above alert level on Wednesday, and at Marromeu, the measuring station nearest the river mouth, it was 15 centimetres above alert level.
There is no danger of a rush of water down the Zambezi from the Cahora Bassa dam. Indeed the Cahora Bassa reservoir is nowhere near full, and has plenty of space to store more water flowing in from Zambia and Zimbabwe.
According to the DNA, on Wednesday the reservoir was 62.81 per cent full. The company that operates the dam, Hidroelectrica de Cahora Bassa (HCB), was optimistic enough to reduce its discharges from 1,816 to 1,250 cubic metres a second.
In the south of the country, the Limpopo river, in Gaza province, is giving some grounds for concern. At Chokwe, a town that was completely submerged in the January-February 2013 floods, the Limpopo stood at 5.82 metres on Wednesday morning, well above the alert level of five metres.
But at Combomune, further upstream, the river fell from 6.56 to 6.35 metres between Tuesday and Wednesday - which was still much higher than the local alert level of 4.5 metres.
The DNA's projections are for a continued fall in the level of the Limpopo at Combumune and a stabilization in Chokwe.