13 March 2017

Namibia: Magnitude of Floods 'Far Worse'

The flood situation in the Cuvelai catchment area has reached alarming levels and residents are being warned to take necessary precautions, in expectation of the worst possible flooding experienced here in living memory.

All institutions and sectors and relief agencies that normally participate in disaster management have been urged to activate their contingency plans for flood management in preparation for the potential disaster.

Communities are being advised not to cross rivers in the flooded areas and to take precautionary measures to avoid loss of life and damage to property.

This is according to a joint press release by the Ministry Agriculture, Water and Forestry, the Disaster Risk Management Division in the Office of the Prime Minister and the Namibia Meteorological Services.

The joint statement warned that the magnitude of flooding expected in the northern central regions is likely to surpass that of 2011, which was the highest level of flooding in Namibia in recent history.

"The 2017 floods are predicted to become even higher if good rains continue, as they are both in the headwaters of the Cuvelai catchments in southern Angola and in the northern border areas of Namibia within these catchments."

The Angolan Department of Water reported heavy rains and flooding in Ondjiva on March 8 and 9. Prior to these heavy rains, water levels had already started rising.

The first flood wave reached Namibia on Sunday March 5, according to the report. and a bigger flood wave was expected to reach Namibia over the weekend.

"This means there is a serious imminent danger of greater flooding in the areas already inundated, as well as the areas that have not been affected so far... Heavy falls are forecast for the regions within the Cuvelai Basin, such as Omusati, Oshana and Ohangwena," read the precautionary statement.

The Kunene, Kavango East, Kavango West and Zambezi regions face a similar predicament.

At least 23,581 learners in Omusati Regions have been sent home as their schools are either flooded or cut off by floodwaters.

In Oshakati alone over 250 people have already been displaced, while close to 70 have reportedly died due to drowning in Omusati Region alone.

A number of roads - mainly in Oshana and Omusati Regions - are cut off due to heavy rains received in the area over the past few weeks.

According to a United Nations report in May 2011 at least 26,000 people were affected in the regions of Oshana, Omusati, Ohangwena and Oshikoto alone by floods at the time.

The Directorate of Risk Management at the Office of the Prime Minister also reported that by May 2011 at least 17,555 people were relocated to floods camps as their homes were flooded.

The majority were from Zambezi Region. Hundreds of schools and health centres were also closed down at the time as a result.

The floodwater destroyed much infrastructure, including houses and businesses, mostly Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) across the regions.

At least 57,240 hectares (17,351 maize and mahangu fields) were also destroyed in Oshana, Omusati, Caprivi, Ohangwena and Kavango regions, while 2,194 farm animals died in the Omusati and Oshikoto regions.

Kavango, Ohangwena, Omusati and Oshana regions reported 39 damaged roads and bridges. The damage to roads and bridges hindered delivery of essential services, such as health outreach services and the delivery of food to affected populations, which forced government to resort to the use helicopters and boats where possible.

Namibia

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