Floods: Helicopters, Marines deployed to rescue thousands in Southern Malawi hills

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Blantyre, Malawi (PANA) - Authorities in Malawi have despatched Marines from the Malawi Defence Force in military helicopters to rescue thousands of villagers marooned in flooded villages and hills in the southern part of the Lower Shire Valley district of Nsanje.

Nsanje District Commissioner Rodney Simwaka told PANA Wednesday the district had been receiving heavy rains since mid last week, resulting in the rivers Ruo and Shire, the southern African country's biggest and longest river, to break their banks and flood several villages.

"About 2,500 villagers managed to flee to the hills but several thousands are still marooned in dry patches of land in the flooded villages," he said.

Simwaka said most roads and bridges had been washed away by the floods, thereby cutting off over 30 villages. He said the rescue operation by the marines started Tuesday. "Its a tricky operation, by 2pm today (Wednesday) they have rescued 99 villagers but the operation is still on going."

He said over 5, 000 people, who managed to flee the floods in time, had sought refuge in schools and churches, adding that government was currently distributing relief items, including food, plastic toilets and plastic sheeting, to victims.

"We are also providing chlorine to purify water since several boreholes were destroyed by the floods and people are drinking unsafe water," he said.

Simwaka said apart from injuries there had been no reports of deaths but said several head of cattle, goats and chicken and several hectares of crop fields had been washed away. "The damage is quite extensive."

Meanwhile, the Department of Climate Change and Metrological Services has blamed Cyclone Funso for the heavy rains and the resultant flooding.

In a statement, the department said Cyclone Funso - which is in the Mozambican channel - had caused too much rain in Malawi.

It said since Funso was moving eastwards, there would still be heavy rains over Malawi for the coming several days.

Although the southern Lower Shire Valley is flood-prone, villagers refuse to move to high ground because the valley has alluvial soil that is good for agriculture while patches of land upland are rocky.

Pan African News Agency
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