Mozambique raises relief pleas as rivers surge

By Allan Seccombe

MAPUTO, March 22 (Reuters) - Mozambique, facing a new flood surge after nearly two months of ruinous rains, appealed to the world on Wednesday for a further $100 million for flood relief and rehabilitation.

The new appeal was made as aid agencies flew assessment missions up three major rivers expected to flood for a third time following heavy rains in South Africa and Zimbabwe.

The government appeal included donations made to and through aid agencies already at work in the country, where rains and a cyclone have killed at least 492 people and have forced close to 100,000 into refugee camps.

"The update seeks resources from the international community for $100 million to ensure ongoing emergency activities for the benefit of 650,000 flood victims.

"The updated appeal places high importance on the urgent repair of secondary roads and bridges as well as to the availability of funds to maintain for at least a month the air transportation assets on a commercial basis," the government said in a statement

The United Nations World food Programme sent a light plane up the Incomati and Sabie rivers to check reports of a new flood surge heading downstream.

Water levels on two rivers reported rising

"The levels of those two rivers are definitely rising again. This will put pressure on the air forces over the next two or three days because road access will become very difficult," said said Sputh African Air Force Lieutenant-Colonel Jaco Klopper.

He said the Limpopo River, which did the most damage in February, was also rising, but this was unlikely to put lives at risk because people had not yet tried to return home.

The government's appeal said Mozambique had received $57.8 million in foreign aid since flooding began in January, and put the total short-term need at $160 million.

"The longer-term rehabilitation requirements for the country will be the subject of an international donor conference to be held in Rome," the government said.

The World Food Programme said it needed over $8 million of the requested $100 million to maintain a vital air bridge to communities stranded by floods.

Saturated lands and cool weather -- until this week -- have prevented flood waters from draining away.

"Of the 4,000 tonnes of food delivered already, nearly half of that was by air," said WFP spokeswoman Abby Spring.

"With the rivers rising again, some key roads to the north are cut off again and we might need helicopters to ferry food into stranded communities again," she said.

Britain has already withdrawn some helicopters. Spain and Germany said they were likely to pull out by the end of the month.

Flying low along the rivers, it was clear the water had receded from earlier highs, but fields and towns were still largely submerged.

"If the situation becomes very serious and lives are in danger, we will put our aircraft into those areas again," said Klopper, whose pilots won world-wide admiration for the tireless and daring rescues from rooftops and trees.

"However, we very strongly doubt if we will have to go through those measures again," he said.


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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