Southern Africa: Floods report 20 Mar 2000

Report
from IRIN
Published on 20 Mar 2000
JOHANNESBURG, 20 March (IRIN) - As military aircraft started scaling down their relief operations in flood-hit Mozambique at the weekend, government spokesmen reported further flooding in the northern and southern parts of the country following torrential rains, adding to the misery of the population that has been ravaged by two cyclones since early February.
In Madagascar, aid agencies said the situation was gradually improving as humanitarian relief operations were relying less and less on costly air transportation as they delivered urgently needed food and medical supplies to people in the east coast. Cyclones Eline and Gloria swept through Madagascar before moving on to Mozambique.

In Malawi, the disaster management authorities are faced with about 10,000 displaced people who urgently need food, shelter and non-food assistance following the destruction of their homes in the Lower Shire valley about a week ago.

MOZAMBIQUE

The Messalo river, in the northern Gabo Delgado province bordering Tanzania, burst its banks at the weekend after a week of torrential rains, Mozambique's national disaster management authority said. The authority, Instituto Nacional Gestao da Calamidades (INGC) said although no lives were at risk, the flooding blocked off the main road and destroyed crops. It added that people living north of the tiny river would remain cut off from the rest of the country until its water levels subsided.

Weather forecast

The South African Weather Bureau at the weekend forecast more showers over Mozambique and its western neighbours before the weather clears up on Wednesday. The bureau added that recent heavy rains over South Africa and Botswana still threatened to swell the Limpopo and other rivers running through Mozambique.

"If the rains continue, these rivers, which are already unstable, could create problems," the weather bureau said in its forecast.

Water levels

The INGC raised concerns about rising water levels in the central Save and Buzi districts, which could cause further flooding in areas bordering the banks of these rivers. The authority also said flood waters might rise in the southern Limpopo and Komati river basins following heavy rains upstream in South Africa.

Agriculture

The district of Chokwe in the southern province of Gaza, one of the worst affected by the floods, will need more than 900 mt of seeds for this year's planting season next month, according to the Agricultural and Rural Development district director, Custodio Macame.

Chokwe, added Macame, lost about 26,000 hectares of farmland in the flooding that devastated most of southern and central Mozambique. About 33,741 farming families in the district depend on rain-fed agriculture, added Macame.

Macame said Chokwe will need 500 mt of rice seeds, 400 mt of maize seeds and 900 kg of vegetable seeds of onions, tomatoes and cabbages, adding that this only covers the needs of subsistence farmers. Commercial farmers needs have not yet been assessed because their lands are still swamped.

He added that another priority will be to distribute agricultural implements such as hoes and rakes. "We will spend three to four months before harvesting anything, which means that we will have to live off food aid," Macame said.

Food

Meanwhile, WFP at the weekend distributed about 457 mt of food to displaced people, using mainly trucks for half of the amounts delivered. On Saturday alone, 180 mt of supplies destined for the south of the country were delivered by road.

WFP, however, raised concerns about isolated communities that the agency cannot reach by road because of the floods. It said most of these communities had not received any food aid since the start of the floods.

Military scaling down

Some foreign military forces have begun withdrawing some of their helicopters assisting in rescue and relief missions in Mozambique, news reports said on Monday. The British military, added the reports, began their phased withdrawal of flying aid to flood victims on Sunday.

Four of Britain's Puma helicopters reportedly left the capital, Maputo to South Africa's Hoedspruit airbase en route to Britain, while more military helicopters are due to leave on Friday.

WFP said 33 helicopters and 16 other aircraft will continue making air drops of supplies to stranded flood victims. It said, however, that it plans to issue an appeal to the international community for civilian helicopters and fixed wing aircraft that will be used in relief operations after March, when most of the military aircraft would terminate their missions.

MADAGASCAR

WFP said on Monday that it had now delivered 185 mt of food to flood victims in Madagascar making up half the 360 mt of food earmarked for the emergency response.

Wagdi Othman, a WFP spokesman in the capital Antananarivo told IRIN on Monday: "These shipments have been comprised of mixed commodities mainly of rice, beans and sugar. WFP has also transported urgently required medicines for people in the flood zones, mainly in the east of the country which was worst-hit by cyclones Eline and Gloria."

He said roads in the giant Indian Ocean island 400 km off the Mozambique coast were gradually improving and that the humanitarian community was able to rely less on costly air transport. Othman said WFP is planning to despatch six trucks on Tuesday carrying a total of 36 mt of food from the capital, Antananarivo to Ilaka, near Vatomandry on the east coast.

MALAWI

The southern tip of the tiny country, bordering Mozambique, suffered heavy rains about a week ago which washed away bridges, houses, livestock and roads. Willie Gidala, deputy commissioner of Malawi's disaster management and preparedness committee, told IRIN on Monday that more than 10,000 people have been displaced.

Gidala said about 5,260 subsistence farming families in the Nsanje district and 5,000 families in Chikwawa, both on the Lower Shire valley, have lost all their possessions and crops, and the areas are inaccessible by road following the destruction of the village roads.

"We need food, blankets, cooking utensils and tents urgently to assist the displaced people," Gidala said. He said initial relief items were distributed to the villagers, which included maize flour, beans, blankets and plastic sheeting, but added that more assistance was needed.

Gidala said President Bakili Muluzi will visit the flood-hit areas on Tuesday to assess the damage.

[ENDS]

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