The Heat Is Online

Mozambique Floods Leave Hundreds of Thousands Homeless

Mozambique says 80,000 at risk from fresh floods

Reuters News Service, Feb. 25, 2001

BEIRA, Mozambique (Reuters) – Mozambican authorities said on Sunday they had begun evacuating up to 80,000 people threatened by fresh floods as more water is released from the Cahora Bassa reservoir.

Silvano Langa, director of Mozambique's National Institute for Disaster Management, said rescuers had four to five days before a fresh wave of water hits the towns of Marromeu and Luabo downstream from the dam.

"Our major concern is Marromeu and Luabo where there are around 80,000 people. This is a very low lying area," Langa told Reuters in an interview.

"We have already started evacuation using the little resources we have. If you take into account that the water is still coming from Cahora Bassa and if it continues at this speed, it may give us four to five days," he added.

Cahora Bassa, the country's largest dam sited on the Zambezi River, was nearing full capacity with the water level now close to its critical level of 326 metres.

"We are just 18 centimetres below that critical level. That is why they keep increasing the discharge in order to prevent any further damage to dam infrastructure," Langa said.

He said one army helicopter was working in the danger area and another would be deployed soon. More rescue teams and small boats were also being sent, but it was not enough.

He said the main road from the port of Beira to the town of Caia near the Zambezi River was cut off due to flooding.

"If we have 10 helicopters we will be in a position to do a good job of evacuation," Langa said.

Mozambique has appealed for $30 million in aid and aircraft as it battles floods that have affected nearly 400,000 people in the central provinces of Zambezia, Sofala, Manica and Tete. More than 77,000 people are homeless.

Last year's devastating floods killed 700 people and left more than 500,000 homeless, prompting one of the biggest rescue missions in southern Africa.

Local media on Sunday reported that the death toll had climbed to 56, but Zamissa could not confirm the figure. The last official estimate was 41 dead.

South African President Thabo Mbeki is considering sending helicopters to help in the relief effort. South African pilots were praised last year for daring rescues of Mozambicans trapped in trees and rooftops.

MALAWIANS FLEE FLOODING

Large swathes of the Zambezi River valley are under water after several other rivers burst their banks, sweeping away huts and crops and flooding a railway line crucial for transporting sugar to the port of Beira.

Officials say heavy rains in neighbouring Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi have sent increased volumes of water into rivers that flow into Mozambique.

Cahora Bassa is currently spewing out 6,750 cubic metres of water per second and officials are considering increasing the outflow to 7,500 cubic metres per second by this evening.

"The dam is full and it is impossible to keep it closed. They are gradually opening it," said the Institute's planning officer Joao Zamissa.

About 2,000 people from flood-hit southern Malawi have fled across the border into Mozambique, pressuring already tight relief resources.

World Food Programme officer Inyene Udoyen said the Malawians were at risk from the swollen Shire River and sought refuge in Mozambique's Morrumbala district.

He said officials were also watching the Save river in southern Mozambique which is reported to be close to bursting its banks.

Mozambique floods kill 41, govt appeals for help

Reuters News Service, Feb. 23, 2001

MAPUTO - Mozambique on Wednesday appealed for $30 million in aid as the country battled floods that have killed 41 people and forced thousands to flee their homes.

Mozambique's Foreign Minister Leonardo Simao said heavy flooding had affected 389,000 people in central Zambezia province, including 77,400 homeless, and destroyed 23,000 hectares of crops.

"They need food aid, tents, blankets, clothing and other donations to help them mitigate the effects of this natural disaster," Simao told reporters after meeting with foreign aid groups in Maputo.

The minister said Mozambique needed air support for rescue missions, to add to just seven aircraft available in the former Portuguese colony.

Mozambique is still recovering from floods last year that killed about 700 people and made 500,000 homeless, prompting one of the biggest aid and rescue missions in southern Africa.

Since January, the country has battled flooding in the central Zambezi Valley after several rivers burst their banks, affecting the provinces of Zambezia, Manica and Sofala.

Simao said heavy rains have washed away roads and bridges in the provinces of Zambezia and Sofala, hampering efforts to distribute aid by road.

Mozambican authorities and aid groups are closely monitoring the Zambezi river after neighbouring Zambia and Zimbabwe each opened a spillway at Kariba Dam, which feeds into the Zambezi.

Heavy rains in Zambia and Zimbabwe, which rely on the Kariba Dam for electricity, threaten to channel raging waters into watersheds or catchments in Mozambique.

"We have requested their cooperation in applying measures to manage the dams that control the river flow. This has been accepted," Simao said.

Foreign aid officials told Simao that they would respond quickly to Mozambique's appeal for help.

"I have called Geneva this morning. They are ready to take up your request. The minute we have the detailed appeal we are all going to be responding very actively," said Emmanuel de Casterle, resident representative of the UN Development Programme.

REUTERS NEWS SERVICE