Zimbabwe + 3 more

Flash flooding strikes Zimbabwe's dry areas

HARARE, 29 January 2013 (IRIN) - Short: Flash floods strike Zimbabwe's dry areas

Flash flooding across Zimbabwe's Masvingo and Matabeleland provinces, normally dry areas, has caused substantial damage to infrastructure. While more than 4,000 people across the country are in need of humanitarian assistance following heavy rains.

"Our area is normally dry, and we were caught unawares by the floods, which destroyed almost all the bridges and badly damaged the roads. As a result, communication is difficult," Alois Baloyi, member of parliament (MP) representing the Chiredzi North rural constituency in Masvingo, told IRIN.

"I have. been informed that more than 10 adults and at least four children have drowned. The number of victims could be bigger, though, as a proper assessment is yet to be done," he said.

Moses Mare, an MP from a nearby constituency in Chiredzi, said recent flash floods saw water rise above ground floor window level, and affected more than 200 families in the sugar-producing town of Triangle.

"The 240 families lost their food stocks, property and blankets. Most of them lost their means of communication as their cell phones were swept away and [they] could not immediately communicate the disaster," he said.

Simon Machaya, teacher based in the Masvingo's Mwenezi District, told IRIN that 30 satellite schools in rural communities were destroyed by storms.

"Hundreds of school children are currently not attending school because their classrooms were blown away. These satellite schools were made up of fragile material such as home-made bricks and thatched roofs. The little stationery and books they had were lost and there is urgent need for assistance," Machaya said.

Flooding across the region

A 29 January situation report of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said, "Heavy rainfall across the country during mid-January 2013 affected an estimated 8,490 people, of which 4,615 people require humanitarian assistance in the form of emergency shelter and non-food items."

Across the region, floods have occurred in Botswana and Malawi - where 30,785 people were affected - and Mozambique. In Mozambique, about 250,000 people have been affected, with 146,000 living in temporary shelters, the OCHA situation report said.

Tropical Cyclone Felleng is expected to shave past Madagascar in the next few days, and could bring "significant rainfall" despite not making landfall. There were also reports of increasing river levels in the capital, Antananarivo, which could "reach alert levels with additional rainfall," the OCHA flood update said.