Southern Africa suffers worst storms since 1966

Southern Africa has been deluged with torrential rains throughout the past week. Rivers have burst their banks and the sunsequent flooding has claimed at least 70 lives. Roads, bridges and homes have been swept away by the flood waters.
According to the National Institute for Disaster Management (INGC), the situation in the north - especially in Gaza and Inhambane provinces - is expected to be deteriorating due to the heavy rains and the increase of the water levels of rivers coming from South Africa. An evacuation plan for residents in those areas is being drawn up. The water level of the Limpopo River has reached a critical level.

Furthermore there is the possibility that a cyclone wll hit the region in the next few days.

Flooding of this magnitude last occurred in 1966.

Heavy rains that fell between February 4-7 have brought the Incomati, Umbeluzi and Sabie rivers to their highest levels ever recorded causing extensive damage especially in and around the cities of Maputo and Matola. Homes and thousands of acres of land have also been destroyed rendering thousands of people homeless.

The most affected areas are in Maputo province (Matutuine, Manhica, Magude and Marracuene) and Gaza province (Chibuto, Chokwe and Mabalane). Most of these areas are having problems with the supply of clean drinking water after pumps and water purification plants were swept away by floods.

A huge floodwave hit the district of Chokwe last weekend, damaging the fertile rice and maize growing farmland of the Limpopo Valley in the southern province of Gaza.

In Maputo City, most of the suburbs have been flooded. About 100,000 people - or 10% of city population - were affected. In some areas, the water is receding but big pools are remaining.

If large rainfalls start again soon, the situation will worsen. The supply of drinking water has been partially cut and the outbreak of cholera and other epidemics is feared. According to Dr Baretto (Mozambique Ministry of Health), malaria cases may double this year - climbing to 4 million cases.

In Matola, 25km away, an estimated 100,000 people had been affected by the floods. It said that 2,000 people were being housed at 11 sites in the city. In addition to these, there are 15,000 to 20,000 persons at home without food, according to a City Council report.

This is the rainy season in Southern Africa, and it is anticipated that more heavy rains may reach South Africa in the next days (February 18-27). All of the reservoirs in South Africa are now at 100% capacity so the excess flow from rivers running from South Africa would cause further flooding in Mozambique.

The water levels of Save, Gorongosa and Ripembe rivers running through Inhambane and Sofala provinces (the north of Maputo province) have already increased.