Government gives details of flood damage

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The total number of recorded deaths in the current Mozambican rainy season, from October to the present, is 117, according to the Minister for State Administration, Carmelita Namashalua.

Speaking on Thursday in the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, Namashalua said that 50 of the deaths were by drowning, 39 were caused by lightning (including people burnt to death when their houses were struck by lightning), and 27 by high winds when houses, trees or electricity pylons were knocked down. One person was killed by a crocodile.

According to the government’s statistics, 478,892 people were affected by the floods and torrential rains. At the height of the floods crisis, in February, 172,479 of these people were sheltered in 62 accommodation centres.

Namashalua added that the disasters destroyed 5,139 houses, and damaged a further 8,456. The floods affected 274,330 hectares of various crops, of which 215,044 hectares were completely lost.

As for livestock, the losses were 1,500 head of cattle, 5,000 goats, 3,500 pigs and 12,500 chickens and ducks.

Damage was done to irrigation systems, drainage channels, protective dykes and seed production fields in the two worst hit provinces, Gaza and Zambezia. Among the equipment lost were 62 tractors, six combine harvester, 111 hand pumps and 30 electrical pumps.

The education service also suffered severe losses. 567 schools were affected by the floods and storms, and in them 1,456 classrooms were destroyed or damaged. Namashalua said that 176,162 pupils and 3,340 teachers were directly affected.

27 health units were affected, including four district hospitals. X-ray machines, sterilization material and assorted laboratory equipment were destroyed.

On the positive side, health posts were set up in the accommodation centres, and mobile health brigades visited areas isolated by the floods. By 5 March, the health posts had attended to 25,818 patients. The most frequent illnesses treated were malaria (6,113 cases), acute respiratory infections (4,767) and diarrhoeal diseases (3,740).

Responding to opposition suggestions that the government had not been prepared for the floods, Namashalua said that in fact the government had drawn up a Master Plan for the Prevention and Mitigation of Disasters in 2006, and every year contingency plans for the coming rainy season are drawn up, envisaging various possible scenarios.

She reminded deputies that the government had declared a “yellow alert” on 30 October, following this up with a “national exercise of flood and cyclone simulation” on 2 November. This simulation included the measures needed for a possible evacuation of the town of Chokwe in the Limpopo Valley.

When the floods struck, Chokwe was overwhelmed – but, thanks to the preparations, “it was possible to evacuate much of the population of Chokwe before the flood wave hit”, the Minister said.

She recalled that, as the situation worsened, an “Orange Alert” was declared on 11 January, which allowed the government to activate CENOE (National Emergency Operational Centre) and to put the troops of UNAPROC (National Civil Protection Unit) on the ground for search and rescue operations.

61 members of UNAPROC and 22 boats were in position at Chokwe, when the highest level of readiness, a “Red Alert” was declared, on 22 January.

As the situation deteriorated, the South African air force sent a 90 strong team to assist UNAPROC, as well as seven helicopters, three light aircraft and two cargo planes.

Namashalua said that, in the light of the flood damage, the government would have to reshape its Economic and Social Plan for 2013. The Contingency Plan budget has been exhausted, and, since the rainy season is not yet over, the government has committed a further 100 million meticais (about 3.32 million dollars).

For the reconstruction phase, she added, about 322 million dollars will be needed – 309 million for the public sector and 13 million for the private sector. This amount will cover repairing or rebuilding schools, health units, roads, bridges, water supply sources, as well as food aid and resettlement.