Dateline ACT Southern Africa Floods 3/00: Eye witness accounts of Mozambican floods

Geneva & Maputo, March 1, 2000 - Yesterday ACT aid workers flew over some of the worst flooded parts of Mozambique. Below follows their eye witness accounts of that trip. The intention of the flight was to see and assess the damage created by the flooding of the Limpopo in Gaza province.
"We flew from Maputo by the coast to Zongwane, the mouth of the Limpopo, to Xai Xai, to villages and small towns along the Limpopo: Chibuto, Mohamed, Chilembene, Leonde and Chokwe. From there we mostly followed the road to Maputo via Mupapa and Marcia," explains Philip Wijmans of ACT-Lutheran World Federation.

Mr Wijmans continues: "At Zongwane so many houses are flooded, dead animals can be found in the swollen waters, remains of local type houses and so many things we could not even distinguish."

"The town of Xai Xai is a shock. Most of the town is flooded, sometimes up to the third floor of a historic building. People live with their goods on the roofs. Some people have been evacuated. Others are stranded on the Limpopo Bridge."

Ulla Hauer, ACT-Consult and employee of Danish NGO IBIS, adds: "At Xai Xai the Limpopo River has taken on the appearance of a huge lake, swallowing everything around its original course. Only radio masts and a few higher buildings rise above the water masses. Entire neighborhoods and thousands of huts have disappeared. Bits and pieces of roofing and other building materials float around in the muddy waters. The big bridge at Xai Xai is still intact but the road leading to the bridge is flooded on both sides leaving people and vehicles stranded on the bridge."

Ulla Hauer continues: "People have sought refugee on the roofs of churches and houses. Some wave to us asking that we pick them up."

The helicopter chartered by ACT-LWF for this assessment mission was small, with no rescue gear and could not pick up any of the stranded people. That task is currently left to only eight South African helicopter crews - obviously far short of the need as it is estimated that at least 100,000 people are in need of urgent evacuation. By yesterday the SA Air crews had moved approximately 6,000 people.

From the onwards trip along what was once the Limpopo River Ulla Hauer explains: "Towns and villages are all under water. Tankers, train wagons, cars and bicycles - everything is like frozen were it got stuck. In Chokwe - the largest city in Gaza Province - houses, offices and food stores are flooded with all the consequences which follows from that."

"In Chokwe the LWF office is completely flooded," says Philip Wijman and goes on: "Some few people can be seen returning to the city, or are lingering around not knowing what to do. But the expectation by the specialists is that there will be more waves coming in even worse than the one that hit Chokwe Sunday Morning 02.00. It is extremely dangerous to return at this time. We only see very few people!"

The World Food Program has indicated that in Gaza alone 75,000 people still need to be evacuated. Another 30,000 from Sofala and Inhambane. One can therefore assume that more than 100,000 people have been directly made homeless by the waters or are in extreme danger to loose home and belongings.

"Regarding the economy, or families loosing their crops and cattle the figure of 800,000 people affected is a conservative estimate. The entire country is affected one way or the other, least that the growing economy will stagnate. Everything from development back to emergency again, for the country and for agencies like ours too," concludes Philip Wijmans.

Overview of ACT Response

In response to the current floods and cyclone destruction in Southern Africa, ACT International has: =C0 Issued an Appeal for US$ 1,1 million for flood relief in Mozambique. =C0 Issued an appeal for US $ 456,091 for flodd relief in South Africa - this appeal will soon be revised upwards to approx. US$ 790,000. =C0 Issued Rapid Response Payments of approx. US$ 50,000 for crisis assistance through ACT members in Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

For further information please contact: Nils Carstensen (mobile ++ 41 79 358 3171).

For donations details please look up: ACT Web Site address:

ACT is a worldwide network of churches and related agencies meeting human need through coordinated emergency response. The ACT Coordinating Office is based with the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Switzerland.