Mozambique

Tropical storm threatens flood-ravaged Mozambique

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Written by Stephanie Kriner, Staff Writer, DisasterRelief.org
Flood-ravaged Mozambique - already reeling from the equivalent of two years' worth of rainfall in less than two weeks - may be slammed by a tropical storm this weekend. Tropical Storm Eline, which is expected to deliver more torrential rain to the country's most flooded provinces, will compound the misery of hundreds of thousands of people already displaced by flooding, aid workers warn.

Eline, now lingering off the west coast of Madagascar, may wreak more havoc on the drenched country this weekend. The storm, downgraded from a hurricane on Thursday, left two dead in Madagascar and caused extensive damage along the country's east coast. "It may strengthen again as it moves over the waters of the Mozambique Channel," said Wassla Thiaw, a meteorologist with the Climate Prediction Center.

Meanwhile, flooding from two weeks of torrential rains has left at least 48 people dead in Mozambique. Exacerbating the situation, the Limpopo River, which takes rain from South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe into Mozambique, continues to rise, threatening to further saturate the worst hit provinces of Gaza and Maputo. Aid officials warn that the rains also have exposed landmines buried in the mud, a legacy of the country's 16-year civil war that ended in 1992.

UNICEF Emergency Coordinator Ian MacLeod told Reuters that some 220,000 people have been displaced or lost their homes in Maputo and Gaza. The U.N. Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) Team has reported that 225,000 people are in need of urgent food aid with another 75,000 at risk and an estimated 800,000 vulnerable to malaria, cholera and other water-borne diseases.

Standing water in places such as Matola and Maputo has health officials worried about disease outbreaks. "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," Kate Horne of Oxfam told the British Broadcasting Company.

Floodwaters from the overflowing Limpopo recently swept into Mozambique's southern city of Xai-Xai, turning thousands of hectares of agricultural and cattle fields into a huge lake and forcing hundreds of families in the lower parts of the city to flee. "In the city, people whose houses have been washed away or flooded have gathered in school buildings, mainly in groups of a couple of hundred. They have nothing," Horne said.

Rescue workers, traveling by boat and helicopter, continue to pick people from rooftops and airlift food to isolated areas. In Gaza Province, some 5,000 stranded people already have been rescued from the raging waters. The World Food Program estimates that another 35,000 people in Sofala Province in eastern Mozambique evacuated in time to beat the raging waters.

After two weeks of steady rains, human and cattle carcasses float through flooded streets. In some places, survivors are forced to drink the filthy water coursing down the roads because the regular water systems have been contaminated. Many rural areas remain cut off from emergency workers, making it impossible to retrieve an accurate death toll or deliver aid.

The disaster extends throughout southern Africa. In South Africa, at least 40 people have died. Some of the worst hit areas are home to the region's poorest residents. Some 120 shacks were swept away in squatter settlements in Alexandra, just north of Johannesburg. Multiple families often squeeze into these tiny homes, made of corrugated iron. A stream of sewage water now runs beside the community, but many refuse to go to emergency shelters for fear of losing their precious plots of land.

Despite the conditions, a full relief mission has begun. The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) reported that 20,000 people are being sheltered at 14 locations in Maputo and almost 55,000 are being sheltered throughout the rest of Mozambique. Donors, including Portugal, the United States and European nations, have pledged $2 million. The United Nations Children's Fund has commited $400,000 in emergency funds, and the World Food Program in Maputo has imported 5,000 tons of emergency food.

South Africa, which already faces a housing shortage, will be forced to dip into funds from a critical housing program for the disaster's newly homeless. Bridges, roads, water systems, electricity stations and schools will need to be rebuilt.

In South Africa, the floods also have cut into the tourism industry. Kruger National Park, which borders Mozambique, estimates its repair bill at about 70 million rand. The park expects to lose an additional 2 million rand in tourism funds after closing the park. An estimated 200 tourists had to be rescued in flooded camps of the park last week.

The rains have spread west over Botswana, deluging the normally arid country with more than half its average annual precipitation in just three days. Most of the country's dams already are underwater and major roads are inundated. The capital Gaborone was isolated last Friday as heavy rains washed out a railway line and flooded homes and a prison, forcing more than 500 prisoners to evacuate.

South Africa, devastated by the flooding itself, has promised assistance to the most devastated areas throughout the region and has sent four helicopters to Mozambique to aid in the relief and rescue efforts. Both Botswana and Mozambique have appealed for international aid. Officials estimate that damages for the entire region will total in the millions of dollars.

DisasterRelief.org is a unique partnership between the American Red Cross, IBM and CNN dedicated to providing information about disasters and their relief operations worldwide. The three-year-old website is a leading disaster news source and also serves as a conduit for those wishing to donate to disaster relief operations around the globe through the international Red Cross movement.

All American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. To help the victims of disaster, you may make a secure online credit card donation or call 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Or you may send your donation to your local Red Cross or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013.

The American Red Cross is dedicated to helping make families and communities safer at home and around the world. The Red Cross is a volunteer-led humanitarian organization that annually provides almost half the nation's blood supply, trains nearly 12 million people in vital life-saving skills, mobilizes relief to victims in more than 60,000 disasters nationwide, provides direct health services to 2.5 million people, assists international disaster and conflict victims in more than 20 countries, and transmits more than 1.4 million emergency messages to members of the Armed Forces and their families. If you would like information on Red Cross services and programs please contact your local Red Cross.

=A9 Copyright 1999, The American National Red Cross. All Rights Reserved.

DisasterRelief
DisasterRelief.org is a unique partnership between the American Red Cross, IBM and CNN dedicated to providing information about disasters and their relief operations worldwide. The three-year-old website is a leading disaster news source and also serves as a conduit for those wishing to donate to disaster relief operations around the globe through the international Red Cross movement. American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. To help the victims of disaster, you may make a secure online credit card donation or call 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Or you may send your donation to your local Red Cross or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013. The American Red Cross is dedicated to helping make families and communities safer at home and around the world. The Red Cross is a volunteer-led humanitarian organization that annually provides almost half the nation's blood supply, trains nearly 12 million people in vital life-saving skills, mobilizes relief to victims in more than 60,000 disasters nationwide, provides direct health services to 2.5 million people, assists international disaster and conflict victims in more than 20 countries, and transmits more than 1.4 million emergency messages to members of the Armed Forces and their families. If you would like information on Red Cross services and programs please contact your local Red Cross. © Copyright, The American National Red Cross. All Rights Reserved.