Southern Africa flood disaster: Thousands evacuated in Mozambique as waters rise

Torrential rains and flooding in Southern Africa have left hundreds of thousands of families homeless. In just one week, Mozambique had the equivalent of two years' rainfall. It is the former Portuguese colony's worst flooding for 40 years and many roads and crops have been destroyed. According to the latest updates, rain is continuing in South Africa and Mozambique, with the Limpopo river continuing to rise and a cyclone heading toward Mozambique. The government has appealed for $2.7m from the international community to help people affected by the floods.

Community Aid Abroad in Mozambique

Community Aid Abroad has been working in Mozambique since 1986, with a regional office in capital Maputo since 1988. Much of Community Aid Abroad's work has been in emergency response during the 20 year war, which ended in 1995. Presently Community Aid Abroad is running a multi-million dollar food security program - with support from AusAID - assisting people to recover from the war. Community Aid Abroad and the other Oxfams working in the region, including Oxfam Great Britain and Oxfam Belgium, are responding with a co-ordinated approach.

Community Aid Abroad-Oxfam gears up its response

"In the city, people whose houses have been washed away or flooded out have gathered in school buildings, mainly in groups of a couple of hundred. They have nothing," said Kate Horne, Community Aid Abroad-Oxfam's representative in Mozambique.

The supply of safe clean water is of utmost priority, with the sanitation system destroyed in Maputo. Community Aid Abroad-Oxfam workers in Mozambique are warning of the threat of water-borne diseases. Kate Horne said, "The real risk is from an outbreak of cholera or malaria, which is what we will be trying to prevent in the next week or two." Community Aid Abroad-Oxfam has flown out specialists in water and sanitation engineering and public health to assess the situation. One problem the relief effort faces is that most of the roads and railways have been washed away. Access to the worst hit areas is only by helicopter.

In the immediate aftermath of the floods, Community Aid Abroad-Oxfam distributed household packs that included clothes, food, soap, and pans to people in need in flood-hit areas of Maputo and Gaza provinces. A further =A3320,000 aid package for flood relief will be flown in, including plastic sheeting, clothing, blankets, emergency water kits and stoves.

Latest Reports

In its latest report on the flooding situation, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that Maputo and the neighbouring province of Gaza are among the most seriously affected areas. This is of grave concern given the high population density of these provinces and their reliance on municipal services.

In Mozambique's capital, Maputo, about 100,000 people have been affected by the flooding. Twenty-five kilometres aware in Matola, 80,000 people had been affected by the floods. In Gaza Province, 5,000 people have been rescued by boat and helicopter, and thousands have had their houses flooded and destroyed by rain. According to the World Food Program, these numbers are likely to increase as the Limpopo River rises. Maputo city authorities also said they need about 25,000 plots of land on the city's outskirts to resettle the homeless.

The World Food Program estimates that 35,000 people in Sofala Province in eastern Mozambique have had to be evacuated. Access to the province's south is limited, with the main road now impassable. In Inhambane Province, also in the east, flooding from the Save River has affected Govuro District in the north of the province. Recent air assessments in the Limpopo river basin have identified huge areas of land which are completely submerged under water, with populations affected thought to be in excess of 200,000 people. It is thought that many water supply systems in this area will have been severely affected.

Other countries in the southern African region have also been affected. In Botswana, which is normally very arid, officials say dams are overflowing, most of the country's major road are under water and the government has appealed for international aid. The capital Gaborone was cut off on Friday as the heavy rains washed out a railway line, flooded homes and Gaborone Prison, from which 500 prisoners were evacuated. In South Africa at least 40 people are known to have been killed in flood-related accidents. The South African government has promised to provide assistance to those worst affected by the floods, and has sent four helicopters to Mozambique to help with the relief effort. "The helicopters have already been deployed in the worst-hit areas of southern and central Mozambique," said Mozambique's Transport and Communications Minister, Tomaz Salomao.