Tens of thousands displaced in Mozambique floods

Several people have died while 70 000 others were displaced by floods in central Mozambique and the situation is expected to worsen till mid-February, the National Institute of Natural Disaster Management (INGC) said on Monday.

”The floods have for now claimed several lives, according to an official toll,” INGC’s deputy director, Joao Ribeiro, said.

On Sunday, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs gave a death toll of 50, a figure which Ribeiro said was overestimated.

Mozambique had as far back as November envisaged a heavy downpour during this raining season and had warned its population, a step which has helped to reduce the number of victims.

More than 70 000 people have been resettled, particularly in schools and other public buildings.

Overall, the Southern African country, which declared a red alert on January 3, is gearing up to evacuate more than 200 000 people.

In Geneva, the Red Cross and Red Crescent warned on Monday that much of Southern Africa faces potentially disastrous flooding, while the situation in Mozambique was particularly worrying.

Heavy rains that started last month in parts of Zimbabwe had provoked flooding there, said a statement from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

That was now spreading to Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zambia, while the large Indian Ocean island of Madagascar, off the Mozambican coast, was also affected.

”The weather forecast for the next seven days is not good with more rain expected, which could last until April,” said Peter Rees, head of the IFRC’s operations support department.

”If this happens, Southern Africa will certainly face major flooding with potentially catastrophic consequences,” he added.

Rees called for immediate action to head off the crisis.

The IFRC statement pointed out that Mozambique was still recovering from flooding and then a cyclone in February 2007.

Since late November when the rainy season started, the heavy downpour has led to a sharp rise in the levels of rivers Zambezi, Pongue, Buzi and Save.

”Currently the River Zambezi is almost 2m above the warning level,” Ribeiro said.

”The forecasts we have indicate that the rains would intensify in the coming weeks, to attain a peak in the second half of February.”

Thirty people died, while 80 000 others were rendered homeless as a result of flooding last year.

In 2001 and 2002, torrential rains swept through the former Portuguese colony still undergoing reconstruction after a long period of civil war (1976 to 1992). More than 700 people were lost to flooding.

More than 3 000 people have been rendered homeless in Zambia, while three people died in Zimbabwe. — Sapa-AFP

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