JOHANNESBURG, 8 February (IRIN) - Torrential rains over large parts of Southern Africa in recent days have left a trail of destruction as rivers burst their banks claiming many lives and sweeping away roads, bridges and homes.
Officials in South Africa, Mozambique and Swaziland said on Tuesday that scores died and thousands had been left homeless. Key border crossings linking South Africa and Mozambique, and South Africa and Swaziland were cut. The main railway service between southern Mozambique and Zimbabwe was also severed, according to officials.
In South Africa's Northern Province, 16 people are believed to have died of flood-related causes. Authorities in the province said that 13 of the deaths involved people trying to cross flooded rivers. The other three victims died when their homes were destroyed by flood waters. The Johannesburg daily, 'The Star', said an estimated 200 people have so far been left homeless by floods in the province.
Flooding in one of the country's main tourist attractions, the Kruger National Park in the northeast of the country, left an estimated 200 tourists stranded at the park's Skukuza camp where an estimated 468 millimetres of rain had fallen in 18 hours, according to weather officials.
In Mpumalanga Province east of Johannesburg, at least 10 people were feared drowned after houses and bridges collapsed, South African media reports said on Tuesday. Police in the province said the death toll could rise because a number of settlements had been isolated by flood waters. Thousands of teachers and pupils were forced to miss a day of school on Monday because of the heavy rains.
Meanwhile, heavy rains forced the closure of the main highway linking South Africa with the Mozambique capital, Maputo.
In Mozambique, where authorities described the rains as the worst in 40 years, Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi said on Monday that an estimated 100,000 people had been left homeless by flooding in Maputo which has a population of about 1 million.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that Maputo and its neighbouring province of Gaza were among the most heavily affected areas. It said an estimated 18 people had died so far in Maputo Province because of the floods. WFP told IRIN it was monitoring the situation in Mozambique closely.
Mozambican media reports said on Tuesday that large parts of Maputo were also without drinking water because of damage to the city's water mains. The country's meteorological services said on Tuesday that about 454 millimetres of rain had fallen in Maputo since Friday. City authorities on Tuesday warned that dams in Maputo Province were filled to capacity, and warned of further flooding in the area.
According to the reports, the Save River in Gaza Province had burst its banks and flooded the town of Massangena in the central part of the province.
Officials said the railway service between Maputo and neighbouring Zimbabwe had also been severed by heavy flood waters. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) told IRIN on Tuesday that although the SANDF had not yet received a formal request for flood relief operations in Mozambique, it was "busy with a planning process incase such a request is made."
In neighbouring Swaziland, 'The Swazi Observer' said that an estimated 10 rivers in the country had burst their banks. It said at least two people had drowned since the rains began on Saturday afternoon.
Swazi Meteorological services said on Tuesday that between Sunday and Monday an estimated 157 millimetres of rain had fallen in the country's capital, Mbabane.
The agriculture ministry's Food and Security Bulletin said the continuing heavy rains were also threatening the country's maize supply because fields were becoming water-logged.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Home Affairs told IRIN that the Mananga border post, between Swaziland and South Africa's Kwa-Zulu Natal Province, had been closed because of the heavy rains. The spokesman said that the border post would only re-open once the waters in the area had receded.
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