Mozambique: Zambezia Storm Death Toll Now 19

Maputo — So far, in the 2019-2020 rainy season, 19 people have lost their lives in seven districts in the central Mozambican province of Zambezia, due to lightning strikes and to the collapse of houses built of flimsy materials.

The data refer to the period from the start of the rainy season, in October 2019, to the present. According to a meeting on Monday in the provincial capital, Quelimane, of the Operational Emergency Centre (COE), there were five deaths in Morrumbala district, four in Nicoadala, three in Alto Molocue, two each in Ile, Lugela and Maganja da Costa, and one in Namacurra.

According to the provisional balance drawn up by the provincial COE, a further 13 people were injured, and 4,515 households were affected by the storms that have lashed the province since late December. The storms destroyed 626 houses and damaged a further 2,503. More than 150 classrooms in Zambezia schools have been destroyed or damaged.

The COE says that 2,233 hectares of crops have been inundated, and 83 hectares are regarded as totally lost.

Reacting to this provincial report, the national director of the National Emergency Operational Centre (CENOE), Ana Cristina, insisted that households must be moved, coercively if necessary, from flood-prone areas.

"We are aware of the enormous efforts made by the multi-sector teams to make households aware of the need to abandon dangerous areas across the country", she said. "We repeat our appeal for greater dynamism to avoid any further debts".

The CENOE director, who is in Zambezia to monitor the actions under way to minimise the damaging effects of the storms, praised the provincial authorities and their partners for their "selfless commitment in designing strategies to harmonise actions in response to the situation we are facing".

Cristina added that anyone who refused to leave flood-prone areas should be forcibly removed. She noted that some households are evacuating dangerous areas voluntarily, "but our capacity to respond as a government requires the unconditional support of our partners at various levels".

She also thought it urgent to reactivate channels of liaison between the government and all partners so that together they can draw up lines for intervention.

Cristina expressed her concern at the systematic absence from COE coordination meetings of representatives of Quelimane Municipal Council (which is run by the main opposition party, Renamo).

Extremely wet weather is likely to continue across Zambezia for the next five days, according to the National Meteorology Institute (INAM), and this is likely to worsen sanitation problems in the outlying neighbourhoods of Quelimane.

Other parts of central Mozambique are also at risk of serious flooding. Several neighbourhoods in the city of Beira (such as Indunda, Praia Nova, Vaz, Chipangara and Manga Mascarenhas) are already inundated, and major rivers such as the Pungue and the Buzi in Sofala, and the Licungo in Zambezia, are threatening to burst their banks.

A representative of the National Directorate of Water Resources, Agostinho Vilanculos, told a Maputo press conference on Monday "we are very concerned, because it will continue to rain, and the situation is serious in the Licungo basin".

However the low pressure system causing the heavy rains is now moving eastwards, towards Madagascar.

According to Paulo Tomas, spokesperson for the Mozambican relief agency, the National Disaster Management Institute (INGC), some 20,000 people have already been moved from potentially dangerous areas in the Licungo Basin.

In the far south of the country, heavy rains led to the deaths of four people in Boane and Matola, in Maputo Province at the weekend. Two of the dead were struck by lightning, one was washed away by flood waters, and one was electrocuted by a fallen cable.

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