Mozambique News Agency

Floods update - 1st March 2001

Flood threat to Luabo

Quelimane (Mozambique), 1 Mar (AIM) - The Mozambican government and United Nations agencies are concerned at the threat of further flooding that may affect over 50,000 people in and around the town of Luabo, in the district of Chinde, in the central province of Zambezia, during the next four days, caused by further discharges from the Cahora Bassa dam.

The representative of the World Food Programme (WFP) to the central provinces of Zambezia, Sofala and Manica, Atanasio Rocha Augusto, told AIM that the town of Luabo is at serious danger from a further flood surge down the Zambezi from Cahora Bassa.

He explained that the vulnerability of Luabo lies in the poor state of the protective dike, that has already been damaged by the heavy rains falling in the region since late January.

For his part, the Zambezia delegate of the National Disasters Management Institute (INGC), Orlando Francisco, said that, given the seriousness of the situation, the dike was being reinforced with a further 800 sand bags.

"Since the floods may worsen during the next few days, we have also dispatched a multisectoral team to identify safe places and prepare rescue operations", he said.

There are currently two helicopters and 14 motor boats operating in rescue operations in Zambezia.

A team consisting of soldiers, policemen and INGC officials has been placed further upstream, in Chimuara, in Mopeia district, to assist the local government in rescue operations and food supplies for the flood victims.

Chimuara is served with a ferry boat that carries people and vehicles between the two banks of Zambezi river, but ferry services have been suspended because of the height of the river, leaving hundreds of vehicles stranded.

Francisco said that both in Luabo and in Mopeia there are dozens of people who are completely isolated, and who need urgent rescue to accommodation centres.

Cahora Bassa has continued discharging water at a rate of around 7,800 cubic metres a second. Despite warnings earlier in the week from the Zambian authorities that the Kariba dam would open all four of its floodgates, it is not clear whether this has indeed happened. A senior Mozambican government source contacted by AIM on Thursday morning said that, as far as he was aware, only two of the Kariba floodgates are currently open.

But, according to the Tete INGC provincial delegate, Jose Silvestre, the discharges from Kariba increased from 7,500 to 8,493 cubic metres a second between Tuesday and Wednesday.

Despite this, the flow of water into the Cahora Bassa lake seems to have fallen. Since the rains in the interior have slackened, the flow of the main Zambezi tributaries has diminished, and they are pouring less water into the main river.

This has reduced the pressure on Cahora Bassa. According to the National Water Board, the level of the Zambezi upstream from Cahora Bassa, at Zumbo, on the borders with Zimbabwe and Zambia, dropped from 6.08 metres on Tuesday to 5.85 metres on Wednesday.

Downstream from the dam, the waters continue to rise in Tete city. According to Silvestre, in some low lying parts of the city, the water is now half a metre deep.

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