Mozambique

Mozambique: Rising flood waters threaten thousands

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JOHANNESBURG, 28 February (IRIN) - The Mozambican Government's Instituto Nacional de Gest=D2o de Calamidades (INGC) said on Monday that as water levels continue to rise, the main priority at this stage was to get as many people as possible to safety, and to get some food, water and blankets to those who are safe but isolated.
In their latest update, the INGC said that over the weekend the level of the Save River had "risen dramatically, leaving thousands of people stranded on shrinking patches of high ground". It said that the water levels of the Limpopo River have continued to rise and were expected to continue rising during the week.

The INGC said that in the southern Gaza, Inhambane and Sofala Provinces an estimated 100,000 people needed to be evacuated. It said that the situation in Chokwe north of the capital, Maputo, was "extremely serious" and that another two meter wave of water would pass through the city later this week. An estimated 13,000 people have already been driven from their homes. There were an estimated 40,000 people living in Chokwe.

Inyene Udoyen from the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) told IRIN on Monday that an estimated 2,000 people were rescued from Chokwe on Sunday by South African Air force helicopter crews. He said that there were "thousands" still trapped in the area. "Chokwe is said to be under three meters of water," Udoyen said.

An update on the flood emergency by the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that, according to the Mozambican government, about 17,000 people in the Save River valley were marooned and waiting to be rescued. "The priority is now to rescue stranded people by air," OCHA said.

Udoyen told IRIN that WFP had established two camps, one at Pande, for operations in the Save River valley and another at Bilene for operations in the Limpopo valley area. He said that four helicopters were being used in the Save River valley, including two from Malawi which were sent at the weekend. Five South African National Defence Force (SANDF) helicopters are operating in the Limpopo valley. "More helicopters are needed, we are dealing with large areas and thousands of people," he said.

SANDF helicopters have been flying almost daily since the humanitarian disaster began to unfold three weeks ago. The South African government has spent an estimated US $3 million on air operations since the flooding began. On Sunday the United Kingdom pledged about US $1 million which would allow South Africa to extend its operations for about 10 more days. An estimated US $80,000 is spent a day on air operations.

The INGC said in Xai-Xai, the capital of Gaza Province, the situation "was also critical" and that about 2,000 people were living along the main road. A one-meter-high crest on the Limpopo River is expected to travel down to Xai-Xai during the week, which means that all of Gaza Province could be under water once again, OCHA quoted a report by the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) as saying.

The IFRC report added that flood water from the Zambeze River running from Zambia, could force the Cahorra-Bassa Dam to release water, "causing further flooding in Sofala Province and the southern parts of Zambezia Province".

An estimated 1,000 people in Inhambane have moved 125 km from Nova Mambone south to Vilankulos. "With current numbers, food and medical supplies should last for about another week," the INGC added. The Save-Beira road, according to the INGC, is cut off in five places.

The INGC said that the gates on Zimbabwe's massive Kariba Dam were opened on Saturday but "the effect of this on the levels of the Cahorra-Bassa Dam and the Zambeze River were yet to be seen".

It said that since the floods began there has been a dramatic rise in the number of malaria cases, and in Maputo Province between 18-22 February 5,118 cases were reported. In Gaza Province, 9,905 cases have so far been documented.

At Manhica, in Maputo Province, all accommodation centres were reporting a serious lack of chloroquine, used to treat malaria.

[ENDS]

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