South African floods kill 26

By Steven Swindells

JOHANNESBURG, Feb 8 (Reuters) - At least 26 people have died in flooding which has devastated parts of South Africa and neighbouring Mozambique, South African police said on Tuesday.

Torrential rains across South Africa's Northern and Mpumalanga provinces left a trail of death and destruction, as rivers broke their banks and swept away bridges and roads.

Seventeen people had lost their lives in Northern Province and another nine perished in Mpumalanga and a number of others were still missing, police spokesmen said.

Two hundred visitors to the Kruger Park were also cut off by rising waters and hordes of the world-famous game reserve's animals headed for high ground.

The South African Weather Bureau forecast more rain and heavy thundershowers to hit the region on Wednesday and Thursday, threatening further flooding with some rivers already at their highest levels in 50 years.

Officials in the Mpumalanga capital Nelspruit were checking reports that five children were swept away by a flooded river at the nearby town of Msogwaba, The Star newspaper reported.

South Africa's national defence force (SANDF) said it had rescued 100 people stranded by floods since Monday.

"We're busy with a number of rescue operations. Close to a 100 people already in Mpumalanga," Colonel Hein Visser, who is running the province's rescue operations, told Reuters.

He said the SANDF had deployed three helicopters to rescue people stranded on roofs and isolated by flooded rivers.


Defence force spokesman Major Louis Kirsten said the SANDF was also ready for rescue operations across the border in Mozambique but was awaiting a formal request from Maputo.

More than 100,000 people have been left homeless in the Mozambican capital Maputo and the neighbouring industrial town of Matola, according to local media reports.

Maputo, a city of a million people, was threatened with isolation because of the rising Incomati river.

Kirsten said the South African air force had flown a short distance into Mozambique to rescue eight stranded people.

Hundreds of Nelspruit residents were left homeless, clean water supplies disrupted and railway lines swamped, SAPA said.

Up to 445 mm (17.5 inches) of rain has fallen in the past four days in the Kruger National Park.

The park's Skukuza camp was cut off from the outside world for the first time in its 101-year history.

"There is no way to reach the north of the park from the south inside the park," said chief warden Antoinette van Wyk.


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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