Botswana + 1 more

Botswana-Zimbabwe: Cyclone brings renewed heavy rain

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JOHANNESBURG, 23 February (IRIN) - Botswana and Zimbabwe braced themselves for heavy rains and storm-force winds on Wednesday as cyclone Eline, that has battered Mozambique, moved across southern Africa.
Botswana

President Festus Mogae has put Botswana on full alert. Tropical storms are expected to reach Botswana on Thursday or Friday, worsening flooding in the country still struggling to come to grips with last week's heavy rains.

The Department of Meteorological Services in Gabarone said on Wednesday that cyclone Eline, downgraded to a tropical depression, was expected to hit the eastern, central and northern parts of the country.

The National Disaster Management Authority told IRIN that cloud masses had already been observed in the Central, Northeastern and Chobe districts. It said the forecast storms were likely to cause "substantial" rainfall in the these areas.

Botswana authorities said on Wednesday that they were taking "emergency measures" to deal with their effects. The measures include frequent updates on the situation and the evacuation of people from flood-prone areas. People have also been advised to stock up on food and water and to remain indoors.

In their update on the situation in Botswana, the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) said "the food situation was difficult for people who had lost their property and for those who remain isolated by flood waters."

Meanwhile, South African customs officials said on Wednesday that the Zanzibar border post between South Africa's Northern Province and Botswana had been closed because of rising water levels on the Limpopo River.

Zimbabwe

John Nkomo, the minister of local government and chair of a ministerial committee on civil protection told IRIN on Wednesday that Zimbabwean officials had been monitoring the situation for the past two days.

"Although we're advised the cyclone is now being downgraded to a tropical depression it has left a trail of destruction. Bridges are down, homes have been swept away, fields are washed out and a number of small dams have collapsed," Nkomo said.

He said that worst-hit areas were in the eastern and southeastern parts of Zimbabwe along the borders with Mozambique and South Africa. Nkomo said that a meeting had been convened on Wednesday to discuss the situation.

Meanwhile, the state news agency Ziana said on Wednesday that the civil protection unit had been deployed into the low-lying areas to help in possible rescue operations. Air force helicopters and fleets of government trucks were being mobilised to move villagers in low-lying areas to higher ground.

On Tuesday, about 200 people were evacuated from flood waters in the southeastern Masvingo Province where an estimated 130,000 people are said to be at risk. Vumba, in Zimbabwe's Eastern Highlands, recorded a wind speed of up to 160 km per hour. Communications with the east and the southeast were also disrupted by the heavy rains and strong winds.

'The Herald' newspaper said there was concern over the rising levels of the Limpopo River that forms the border with South Africa, as well as the Runde and Save rivers, three of the country's largest rivers, all in the southeast of the country. Local government emergency organisations were reported to have asked people to evacuate their homes on the banks of the three rivers.

In the eastern city of Mutare, heavy rain had made most roads impassable and telephone and electricity supplies were cut as uprooted trees fell over power and telephone cables.

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