Maputo, 6 Mar (AIM) - Operations began on Monday to evacuate the last 17,000 people from the flood stricken central Mozambican locality of Inhangoma.
Inhangoma is the easternmost locality in Mutarara district, and is at the confluence of the Zambezi and Shire rivers, both of which are in flood.
The evacuation is regarded as urgent, since the flood waters are now reaching areas that had earlier been regarded as safe. Eight inflatable boats and one South African helicopter are involved in the evacuation, according to Tuesday's issue of the Maputo daily "Noticias".
Inhangoma residents are being taken to accommodation centres on higher ground elsewhere in Mutarara - in the district capital, Nhamayabue, and in Bawa, Mandua and Charre.
Further downstream, the level of the Zambezi continues to rise ominously. At Caia the river was measured, at 14.00 on Monday, at 7.96 metres - flood alert level at Caia is just five metres. The height of the river is such that the ferry crossing at Caia (part of the country's main north-south highway) remains suspended.
Inevitably the waters are rising and spilling out across the flood plains of Marromeu, near the river delta. According to Radio Mozambique, the rescue operations here are still being hindered by the reluctance of peasant families to leave their homes.
Although the dam lake is now full to capacity, the Cahora Bassa dam on Monday actually reduced its discharges - from 8,800 to 8,356 cubic metres a second.
The dam management is trying hard not to worsen the flooding on the lower Zambezi, but admits that as more water flows into the lake from Zambia and Zimbabwe it will have no option but to open more floodgates and increase the discharges.
The UN Assistant Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs, Ross Mountain, is currently visiting Mozambique as an envoy from UN secretary-general Kofi Annan. He visited flooded areas of the Zambezi valley (including Inhangoma, Caia and Marromeu) on Monday.
"The situation is very serious", Mountain told reporters, "And we fear that it could become even more serious, since, if the level of the water rises further, more people will be at risk".
"In general, I would say that the current situation is under control", he added, "but we are worried about the future".
He promised that the UN would launch an international appeal to back up the Mozambican government's appeal in late February for over 36 million dollars in assistance for the flood victims and to repair damaged infrastructure.
Transport Minister Tomas Salomao, who is also in the Zambezi valley, denied last week's report that ten people in Inhangoma had died of hunger. He said that an investigation of these cases showed that they had actually died of malaria and cholera.
"But whatever the cause, we are talking of deaths", he said. "They
died and what we have to do is prevent people from dying".
Maputo, 6 Mar (AIM) - The number of people displaced from their homes by the current floods in the central Mozambican province of Zambezia has risen from 23,600 in late February to about 69,000 now, according to provincial governor Lucas Chomera.
Speaking to AIM, Chomera said that, while most attention has been focused on the Zambezi, several other rivers in the province, including the Licungo and the Boas Sinais, have also broken their banks.
Rescue and relief operations are underway in 11 districts in Zambezia affected by flooding or torrential rains - namely the provincial capital, Quelimane, Chinde, Mopeia and Morrumbala in the Zambezi valley, Inhassunge, Maganja da Costa, Nicoadala, Namacurra and Pebane along the coast, and Mocuba and Milange in the interior.
Currently the town of Luabo, in Chinde district, on the north bank of the Zambezi, is causing great concern. Should the Zambezi rise much higher - which is inevitable if more floodgates on the Cahora Bassa dam are opened - then Luabo will be completely flooded.
Zambezia is also currently sheltering about 3,500 Malawians, who fled across the border when their villages were flooded by the Shire river, the largest of the Zambezi's tributaries.
Chomera told AIM that the Malawians have refused to go home. "For a week the Malawian authorities tried unsuccessfully to repatriate their citizens", he said. "They don't want to return yet because of the excellent support they have received in Mozambique".
The Zambezia floods have also led to a crisis in education. Almost 68,000 primary school students in the province are unable to attend school, because the floods have destroyed 544 classrooms.
"This will have serious implications for the implementation of the school timetable in the province", said Chomera.
A preliminary estimate on agricultural losses is that 23,000 hectares of crops (mostly maize and rice) have been ruined in Zambezia. To enable farmers to replant, at least 20,000 kits of seeds and hand tools are required.
Chomera said the Ministry of Agriculture has guaranteed 350,000 dollars to acquire seeds and tools, but the province will require a further 250,000 dollars to cover all the needs.
Meanwhile the governor of Tete province, Tomas Mandlate, has warned that residents of Magoe district are running out of food.
Magoe is upstream from the Cahora Bassa dam, and although people have not been flooded out of their homes, floods have cut the access roads to the district. Neither formal nor informal traders have been able to acquire supplies.
Thus even if Magoe residents have money, there is nothing for them to buy.
Mandlate feared a hunger crisis in the district, unless helicopters were used
to fly in food.
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