Mozambique

Chokwe Reduced To Ghost Town

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CHOKWE, Mozambique (PANA) - A month after the devastation caused by the worst floods in living memory, the town of Chokwe, in the southern Mozambican province of Gaza, has become a ghost city.
This was once a thriving agricultural centre, at the heart of the largest irrigation scheme in Mozambique, and home to over 56,000 people.

But much of the local population fled the town as soon as the raging waters of the Limpopo started flooding Chokwe.

Not only has Chokwe been partially abandoned in the vastness of the Limpopo valley, but it has also been looted.

There is an eerie silence which heightens the sense of desolation. The streets of the town are mostly empty save for a few souls who are somehow trying to put their lives back together again.

Some of its residents are trying to remove the mud from their houses, while others have started reviving their informal and petty trading.

But it is expected that the process will take a long time before the formal commercial sector gets back on its feet, because everything in the shops or warehouses has been covered under the heaps of mud. Everything that survived the thieves, that is.

Perhaps out of a desperate need, or simply taking advantage of the absence of police, some people looted houses and shops.

Chokwe could remain a ghost town for some time yet. The rains that have been falling over the last two days make the return of the population, currently housed in accommodation centres, a foolhardy preposition - at least the centres are a little safer.

The town has no electricity, no drinking water, no foodstuffs, and no medical care - the local hospital was invaded by the flood waters, and staff and patients were evacuated to the district of Bilene.

All social and economic activities have been interrupted.

A putrid smell in the air compounds this desolate scenario. At least 42 bodies had been removed Wednesday but the search for others had to be suspended after the only tractor carrying out the operation broke down.

The removal of dead bodies was expected to resume Thursday after the tractor's repair.

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