The Heat Is Online

Rains Cripple Mozambique and Botswana

Fear of disease in Mozambique

Cholera, malaria could kill more than flood waters

MSNBC staff and wire reports

MAPUTO, Mozambique, March 6 — Relief workers in Mozambique warned on Monday that malaria and cholera could eventually claim many more lives than the swirling flood waters that have wreaked havoc on this country for nearly a month.

NBC's Ron Allen reported from Maputo that aid workers are seeing triple the number of cases of cholera, while malaria is also on the rise. A shortage of clean drinking water coupled with the weakened immune systems of displaced Mozambicans, worn down by days spent stranded in trees and on rooftops while waters raged around them, has provided a fertile breeding ground for airborne diseases.

Even in normal times, Zimbabwe experiences malaria outbreaks and the swampy, humid weather is providing a very fertile breeding ground for more cases.

When the final toll of this crisis is counted, disease could kill more than the floods alone. The official death toll stood at 400 this afternoon and was expected to rise as flood waters recede and more bodies are found in the mud.

"As the waters are receding, a problem is coming up. Corpses are exposed and carcasses of animals, which are a real threat to health," Foreign Minister Leonardo Simao told a disaster management briefing on Monday. "I am told we need more plastic bags, particularly for more human corpses."

MOVING VICTIMS TO CAMPS

On Monday, an estimated 250,000 people were crowded into 72 makeshift camps, mostly in southern and central Mozambique, said Georgia Shaver, regional manager of the U.N. World Food Program. One hundred tons of food needed to be moved every day to feed those in the camps, Shaver said.

Ravenous and thirsty after being trapped for up to a week as floodwaters rose around them, survivors have scrambled for food and drinking water, sometimes fighting as aid workers struggled to distribute emergency supplies.

Mozambique’s national disaster center Monday said 950,000 of the country’s 19 million people had been affected by the floods. The center said some 473,000 people will require food aid, and the remainder will require other forms of assistance.

South African, French, German and British helicopters began operations Monday to deliver food and other aid to the Limpopo River valley, 125 miles north of the capital, Maputo.

German planes and British boats conducted relief operations in the Save River valley, 500 miles farther north of the capital. U.S. and Spanish aircraft were expected to pitch in Monday or Tuesday.

South Africa has taken on most of the burden of rescuing stranded Mozambicans. Through Friday, its helicopter crews had snatched 12,142 people from swirling, muddy waters.

AID OPERATION ON COURSE

But after a slow, sometimes confused start, the international relief operation to the devastated southeast African nation appeared to be operating more smoothly. "I think we are really on course," Lindsey Davies of the World Food Program said Monday.

Even so, Mozambique’s former first lady, Graca Machel, spoke bitterly of what many here say was the failure of the United States and other Western powers to provide aid quickly enough.

"It seems the world has no conscience when it comes to human life," said Machel, the wife of former South African President Nelson Mandela.

U.N. special envoy Ross Mountain defended the international response, but conceded: "Obviously we all wish that this could be done faster."

Mountain said many survivors were ignoring the pleas of aid workers and government officials and returning to flood-battered areas, raising the possibility they might need to be rescued again if heavy rains and flooding resume.

Cyclone Gloria, which together with a steady, three-week downpour caused the deluge, has been downgraded to a tropical storm. Still, remnants of the storm hovered over the Indian Ocean off the coast of Mozambique and were expected to bring more rain.

U.S. AID PRESENCE

Up to 100 U.S. troops were at Hoedspruit air base in South Africa Monday to set up the $40 million U.S. relief mission dubbed "Operation Atlas Response," a U.S. military spokesman said.

Six U.S. military personnel were in Mozambique, and five Air Force planes loaded with relief supplies and equipment were expected to arrive at Hoedspruit later in the day, 1st Lt. Mike Naschen said by telephone from the air base.

President Joaquim Chissano said flood victims would need to be fed for at least 10 months — until they could grow new crops. He also said a minimum of $250 million would be needed for reconstruction and pleaded with Mozambique’s creditors to forgive the country’s foreign debt.

The flooding has destroyed one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies. After abandoning socialism in 1989, Chissano won praise from international institutions and donors for selling off state-run companies and loosening foreign investment regulations.

Despite the economic progress, Mozambique has remained one of the continent’s poorest countries, with half the population unemployed.

NBC's Ron Allen in Maputo andThe Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Weary Pilots Try to Evacuate Flooded Mozambique

MAPUTO, Mozambique, February 29, 2000 (ENS) - Severe flooding and a wave of tropical cyclones have left Mozambique struggling to cope with one of its worst ever natural disasters.

Foreign Minister Leonardo Simao said that the flooding has caused at least 70 deaths, and affected at least 300,000 people in seven of the country's 11 provinces. These are people who have lost their homes or livelihoods, and are in need of immediate assistance. He appealed to the international community for $65.5 million.

"The entire population in the affected areas is either in water up to their necks or stranded in treetops," said United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) logistics officer Asfaw Ayelign. "Before we even give them food, we have to get them to safety. The priority is to get them to a place where they can be cared for."

The weather has improved for air rescue operations across Mozambique, where only scattered showers are expected the next few days. But releases of water from dams upstream threaten to bring more flooding.

The WFP warned today that the situation is worsening and that people will increasingly run the risk of illness and starvation if humanitarian assistance is not immediately expanded.

"With more water coming the disaster could spread much wider. Thousands of people are stranded, some on rooftops, in trees, on anything they can cling too," said Jean-Jacques Graisse, WFP assistant executive director and director of operations. "International donor support is immediately needed if we are to save lives."

Inadequate air transport facilities could lead to the loss of great numbers of lives in Mozambique, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies warned on Monday. With only five South African army helicopters involved in rescue efforts, hundreds of thousands of people continue to be stranded across southern Mozambique. The funds to keep the helicopters operating have now run out. The situation is deteriorating rapidly as flood levels continue to rise.

The most critically hit areas are inaccessible by road, as the heavy flood waters washed away entire sections of the country's main transportation network and completely submerged many secondary roads reported WFP staff in the field. Private trucks attempting to ferry commercial food supplies and other urgent items such as water, fuel, and kerosene are reportedly getting stuck en route.

Using a fleet of seven helicopters and five aircraft from the South African National Defense Force, WFP has already shuttled some 1,200 metric tons of maize, pulses, sugar and oil to over 50 key delivery points in badly hit districts. The food is being distributed to over 100,000 people with the help of local authorities, non-governmental agencies, church groups, and area residents.

The agency is using the helicopter fleet to run search and rescue missions to pluck survivors from the waters and deposit them on higher ground.

Over the past five days, an additional four to eight meters of flood waters have engulfed the country's hardest hit areas caused by an overflowing of dams in Southern Africa and Zimbabwe.

The opening of the spillway gates of the Kariba dam on the Zambezi River yesterday will cause further flooding.

In response to the growing crisis, WFP is launching a massive emergency aid operation for the country - and potentially the region. The food aid agency already estimates that immediate support is required to search, rescue and care for up to 300,000 people.

As an initial step, WFP has asked donors to fund a $4 million feeding operation, which was approved on February 24, to ensure food supplies for approximately 110,000 people for the next three months. A further $2.8 million special operation has been approved for WFP to increase its air power to search and rescue survivors, as well as transport food and non-food aid. But WFP will need even further support from donors for the bigger operation that will follow.

A large WFP team is spread out throughout the country's southern and central regions to run the logistics operation, oversee food distributions, monitor the conditions of the people and report on other humanitarian needs that are developing as the crisis continues.

WFP staff working in Beira, Mozambique's largest and busiest port, reported that cyclone Elina sank four ships docked in the port's channel. As a result, port activities have been severely hampered. WFP has 365 tons emergency food supplies waiting to be cleared from the port for emergency distribution in flood-struck areas in the central region of the country.

"The situation for these people, particularly those who are still stranded, is quickly deteriorating," Graisse said. "This disaster is of epic proportions and we urgently need donor support if we are to expand our operations to meet all the needs."

WFP is the United Nations' front-line agency in the fight against global hunger. In 1999 WFP fed more than 88 million people in 82 countries including most of the world's refugees and internally displaced people.

US sends aid to flooded Mozambique

The Boston Globe, By Emelia Sithole, Reuters, Feb. 29,2000

MAPUTO, Mozambique - Aid agencies battled yesterday to rescue thousands of Mozambicans stranded by floods in trees and on rooftops, while the international community promised new help for the flood-stricken nation.

After three weeks of floods, the United States announced it was sending Mozambique two planes with supplies and Britain called for debt relief for the impoverished nation.

Mozambique's water authority warned people living in the Xai-Xai district northeast of the capital Maputo that they should move to higher ground as the wave of water that inundated the Chokwe district at the weekend moved toward the coast.

''We expect the levels to rise very fast toward Xai-Xai. People have to get to higher and higher ground because the situation is getting worse,'' said Olinda Sousa, head of the technical unit of Mozambique's regional water authority.

Sousa also warned that another wave of water from Botswana and Zimbabwe would hit the ravaged central and southern regions of Mozambique in the next three to four days.

At least 350 people have died, more than 650,000 have been left homeless, and crops vital for the coming winter have been swept away in Mozambique, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Botswana in three weeks of flooding.

A US defense official said a C-17 aircraft in Pisa, Italy, carrying blankets, water, and plastic sheeting was expected to arrive in Mozambique tomorrow.

Another aircraft, a C-5A, was undergoing repair and expected to leave soon for South Africa with tents and blankets, the official said.

State Department spokesman James Rubin said the United States was offering $132,000 to Save The Children to help fight cholera, bringing the country's total aid to Mozambique to more than $600,000.

Aid agencies, which have been looking to hire private helicopters and boats from the region, have expressed dismay at the slow reaction of the international community.

''It is very upsetting. The response is far too slow right now. This is not the response that we saw in Kosovo or in East Timor,'' said Michelle Quintaglie, a UN World Food Program official. ''We have people whose lives are on the line.''

Commonwealth Secretary General Emeka Anyaoku has appealed to the organization's leaders to help the rescue operation.

''It is not beyond the capacity of countries that are far away to send helicopters to Mozambique because the need is dire. The alternative is to let more and more people die,'' he said.

Meanwhile, Britain, which has given $1 million to pay for helicopters and boats called on its European Union partners to write off Mozambique's debt.

''We would like other countries to follow our lead and provide 100 percent relief of the bilateral debts of Mozambique,'' said British Finance Minister Gordon Brown.

A Mozambique national radio broadcast appealed for private boat owners to help ferry people from shrinking islands, roofs, trees, power, and telephone poles to high ground.

Tens of thousands of people are still awaiting rescue, some after up to four days without food or rest.

This story ran on page A5 of the Boston Globe on 2/29/2000.

Mozambique floods worsen
Mon Feb 28 2000 18:28 EST

Kevin O'Shea, weather.com
(The Weather Channel)

Thousands of people in the east African nation of Mozambique are trapped. They are stranded on their rooftops, clinging to partially submerged trees and power poles, or isolated on small hillocks amidst a vast sea of floodwater. They are looking to the sky for rescuers.

"As water levels are continuing to rise, those unable to get to higher ground are at risk of drowning. The first priority is to try to get as many people to safety as possible and to get food, water and blankets to those who are safe, but isolated," the Mozambique National Disaster Institute said in a statement.

The flooding started three weeks ago and was exacerbated last week after Cyclone Eline swept in from the Indian Ocean. The cyclone drenched the country before moving on to neighboring South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Mozambique's water authority warned people living in the Xai-Xai district northeast of the capital of Maputo to move to higher ground as a wave of water that inundated the Chokwe district over the weekend moved toward the coast.

"We expect the levels to rise very fast toward Xai-Xai. People have to get to higher ground because the situation is getting worse," said Olinda Sousa, head of the technical unit of Mozambique's regional water authority.

Relief agencies say that the floods have affected more than a million people already. They estimate 350 people in Mozambique have died, including 125 over this weekend alone.

"Many people have been taking refuge on top of buildings or in trees and have reportedly been there for a number of days now. The health situation of these people is extremely serious," according to a spokesperson for the Mozambique Disaster Institute.

In response South Africa has sent in the military to help. Rescuers are using five helicopters and three light airplanes, evacuating residents over a wide area around the Limpopo River.

Over the weekend Britain pledged an additional million dollars to keep the relief effort in operation for another week. South Africa is considering sending several more helicopters and planes to the region and neighboring Malawi has two helicopters on scene. More than 1,800 people have been reported rescued thus far.

"The government and non-government organizations are trying to see if we can get more helicopters for us to fly provisions and relief aid to camps that have been set up around the country," said U.N. Childrens Fund (UNICEF) emergency coordinator Ian McLeod

When the floodwaters recede the nation will face a huge cleanup problem. A vast area has been scoured of crops and animals. Mozambique had been a model African nation which was rapidly building up it's economy before the disaster.

Reuters Limited contributed to this report


Rescue efforts in S. Africa

Stephanie Watson & Tad McNair, The Weather Channel (weather.com)
Feb. 9, 2000

South Africa announced Wednesday that it would send much needed aid to neighboring Mozambique, which has been victim to some of the worst flooding in that country's history.

Government officials reported that thousands of acres of farmland were washed away as the rain-swollen Incomate, Sabie Ubmeluzi, Movene and Maputo rivers burst their banks following heavy rain this weekend.

South Africa was also inundated with rain, which led to as many as 26 deaths. The worst devastation was centered in the country’s Northern and Mpumalanga provinces.

Witnesses said the Mozambique capital Maputo, which is home to one million people, was virtually cut off from the outside world. South Africa sent air force rescue missions into the area to free those trapped by the rushing waters. Many were plucked by helicopter as they clung to rooftops or tree limbs.

In the country’s famous Kruger National Park, rising waters cut off some 200 tourists when 18.4 inches of rain fell in an 18-hour period. Humans weren’t the only ones seeking refuge, many of the game-reserve’s animals were spotted heading for higher ground as well.

The South African Weather Bureau says more bad news is on the way. They have forecast more rain and heavy thundershowers to hit the region today and Thursday. This would threaten already rain-swollen rivers, some of which are at their highest point in 50 years.

Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano said his government was planning to appeal for international assistance to speed recovery efforts.

Reuters Limited contributed to this report.

WORLD BRIEFS
45 die in flooding as rains continue

The Boston Globe, Feb. 15, 2000

JOHANNESBURG - The death toll from the worst flooding across southern Africa in nearly 50 years rose to at least 45 yesterday as more rain deluged the region. South African police said the number was expected to rise as rescuers reached remote areas. Thousands have been left homeless after nearly a week of constant rain. President Thabo Mbeki declared parts of the country's Northern and Mpumalanga provinces disaster areas as early estimates put the cost of the flooding at more than $159 million. (Reuters)

Southern Africa hit by floods

By Derek James, Associated Press, Feb.12/2000

GABORONE, Botswana - Rain, normally a blessing in this desert nation, came down in torrents yesterday, washing away sections of the only railroad and flooding a prison.

Five straight days of downpour have killed scores of people throughout southern Africa, claiming lives in Botswana, South Africa, and Mozambique. More than 100,000 people were left homeless in the region.

Floods toppled shacks and forced schools to close. Thousands of motorists were stranded by destroyed roads and bridges. Water covered thousands of acres of sorghum, corn and other crops throughout the region.

The flooding was the worst in memory in Botswana, a Texas-sized country of 1.5 million people where rain is so precious that the local currency is called the ''pula,'' which means rain. Botswana's only rail line was washed away in two places. Water trickled over the walls of the reservoir in the capital, Gaborone, where about 135,000 people live.

More than 500 prisoners were evacuated from the flooded Gaborone Central Prison, according to local press reports. Floodwaters swept away at least three people in the village of Kopong, 20 miles northwest of Gaborone. They were presumed dead.

With rainfall totaling more than 8 inches, Botswana's government considered declaring the country a disaster area.

Truck traffic came to a standstill along the country's north-south highway, the main conduit for goods coming from South Africa to Zambia and parts beyond.

Across the region, the rains have left tens of thousands homeless and prompted emergency appeals for aid.

Many of the 74 killed - three in Botswana, 32 in Mozambique and 39 in South Africa - were children swept away by rivers that overflowed their banks.

Mozambique's government appealed for $2.7 million for rescue operations and immediate relief.

UNICEF was distributing fresh water and shipping drugs and other medical supplies to Mozambique as part of a $400,000 campaign to prevent a possible outbreak of cholera, malaria, and diarrhea.

This story ran on page A06 of the Boston Globe on 2/12/2000.
©
Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company

Rescue efforts in S. Africa
Stephanie Watson & Tad McNair, The Weather Channel (weather.com)
Feb. 9, 2000

South Africa announced Wednesday that it would send much needed aid to neighboring Mozambique, which has been victim to some of the worst flooding in that country's history.

Government officials reported that thousands of acres of farmland were washed away as the rain-swollen Incomate, Sabie Ubmeluzi, Movene and Maputo rivers burst their banks following heavy rain this weekend.

South Africa was also inundated with rain, which led to as many as 26 deaths. The worst devastation was centered in the country’s Northern and Mpumalanga provinces.

Witnesses said the Mozambique capital Maputo, which is home to one million people, was virtually cut off from the outside world. South Africa sent air force rescue missions into the area to free those trapped by the rushing waters. Many were plucked by helicopter as they clung to rooftops or tree limbs.

In the country’s famous Kruger National Park, rising waters cut off some 200 tourists when 18.4 inches of rain fell in an 18-hour period. Humans weren’t the only ones seeking refuge, many of the game-reserve’s animals were spotted heading for higher ground as well.

The South African Weather Bureau says more bad news is on the way. They have forecast more rain and heavy thundershowers to hit the region today and Thursday. This would threaten already rain-swollen rivers, some of which are at their highest point in 50 years.

Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano said his government was planning to appeal for international assistance to speed recovery efforts.

Reuters Limited contributed to this report.