Malawi + 1 more

Thousands displaced by floods in Malawi, Mozambique

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By Denis Mzembe

BLANTYRE, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Flooding has left thousands of people homeless in Mozambique and Malawi, adding to the misery of a hunger crisis gripping the two southern African countries, officials said on Thursday.

Two weeks of heavy rains have destroyed thousands of homes in eight districts in Malawi, leaving 300,000 people homeless and struggling to survive in make-shift shelters made from plastic sheeting, said Malawi's chief relief official James Chiusiwa.

Overcrowding in shelters had raised the prospect of the outbreak of diseases, such as cholera, he told Reuters.

Government officials said last week that the floods had killed at least seven people. Villagers from affected districts of southern Malawi said dozens more were still missing.

"The situation is critical," Chiusiwa said. "These people are in urgent need of blankets, more plastic sheeting for shelter and urgent food supplies."

In neighbouring Mozambique, floods have washed away an estimated 4,000 homes, displacing 100,000 people and disrupting power supplies in several northern districts.

Malawi and Mozambique are among six southern African countries where aid agencies say more than 14 million people face starvation due to severe weather damaging crops and bad government policies.

Nature has been cruel to Malawi where crops have been scorched by drought and now swamped by floods. Aid agencies estimate one-third of the country's 10 million people are battling food shortages.

Chiusiwa said thousands of people had been displaced in the central lakeshore district of Salima, the northern border district of Karonga, as well as the southern districts of Nsanje, Shire and Chikwawa.

FLOOD MEMORIES IN MOZAMBIQUE

In Mozambique, two weeks of torrential rains in the northern provinces of Nampula and Zambezia caused flooding that wrecked two electricity pylons serving the city of Nampula, leaving many of its two million residents without power.

Mozambican weather forecasters said another tropical depression brought more heavy rains to northern coastal areas this week, compounding food supply problems that have already left more than 600,000 people in need of food aid.

Devastating floods hit Mozambique in 2000, killing at least 700 people and displacing hundreds of thousands more. The disaster, which wiped out roads and bridges and washed away essential crops, forced Mozambique to appeal for almost half a billion dollars in international aid.

"Efforts to distribute relief supplies to badly-hit Nampula residents have been hampered by the relentless rains," said Rogerio Manguel, spokesman for Mozambique's Institute for National Disaster Management. "The situation is critical."

Manguel said roads in Nampula and Zambezia regions were impassable after rains destroyed dozens of bridges. Several dozen schools, health centers and a police station were also heavily damaged, he said.

"It's the start of the school term but several thousand children will have to sit out and wait for the government to try to rebuild their schools," Manguel said.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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