Region braces for floods after drought

>Mpho Tebele

GABORONE- STILL reeling from the effects of El Niño-induced drought, the Southern African region has been warned to be on high alert as flash floods have started hitting most parts of the region leaving thousands rural poor homeless.

The SADC’s Food Security Early Warning System Agromet Update for 2016/2017 Agricultural Season has warned that in flood-prone areas, preparedness and contingency measures need to be taken as part of the normal seasonal planning processes.

Widespread regional rain is expected to continue to pound most parts of SADC given the forecast for normal to above normal rainfall.

In particular Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe have been the most affected.

In Botswana scores of families in the southern parts of the country were left stranded as their houses and mud huts were washed away by torrential rains.

This comes in the wake of heavy storms that have been pounding the country since Christmas.

Most of the roads leading to the capital from the surrounding villages were temporarily closed with motorists being advised to suspend travelling.  In Moshupa village, 70 kilometres from the capital Gaborone, five houses were severely affected by the floods, which damaged household items, furniture and appliances such as fridges and also killed chickens.

Acting assistant district commissioner for Moshupa Sub-district, Tshepho Kgotso reportedly said they had managed to secure accommodation for two families from their relatives, while the third is accommodated at a primary school.

Botswana Railways this week also announced that it has, with immediate effect, suspended the movement of its passenger and goods trains following torrential rain falls that caused damage to its railway line in Morwa village, 30 kilometres from Gaborone in southern Botswana.

Botswana Railways’s acting CEO, Mao Segage said the floods had caused damage to the railway line in Morwa thus a decision was taken to suspend the movement of trains to access the situation.

Department of Metrological Services chief metologist, Radithupa Radithupa, has warned that accumulated rainfall amounts of 50mm or more are to be expected over most parts of the country until the end of January.

“These heavy falls may cause possible flooding, which may lead to damage of property or loss of lives; therefore members of the public are advised to take necessary precautions,” he said. He revealed that the floods are caused by what he called an easterly wave that is expected to pound the whole of Southern Africa.

In South Africa, the South African Weather Service says there is an up to 80 percent chance of rain in some parts of Gauteng this week.

Johannesburg Emergency Services (JES) says their teams will remain on high alert to deal with any flash floods caused by heavy rains that continue to fall across the province.

Emergency Services’ Robert Mulaudzi is quoted as saying that a number of emergency calls have already been made. He has urged motorists to be extra vigilant.

Reports indicate that the latest weather update from the Zambia Meteorological Department has indicated that heavy downpour was expected Muchinga, Eastern, Southern, Central and Lusaka provinces in the next weeks.

The department explained that this was because the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) which was the main rain bringing system would continue oscillating beyond the southern borders of Zambia, allowing moist and unstable Congo airflow over much of the country for the period 6 to 8 January, 2017.

The department stated that during the same period a low pressure system over Angola would move southwards into northern Botswana and thereby allowing stable and less moist airflow from the South-West to affect Western and Western districts of southern province.

The department stated that this was intended to reduce rainfall and thundery activities over the areas.

“The period from 9-12 January, 2017, the high pressure system from the South East of South Africa will push the ITCZ to the southern borders of Zambia where it will be oscillating about. The Angola low pressure system will also be pushed northwards into Southern and southern districts of Western province. This will enhance rainfall activities over these areas,” the department said.

Reports in Namibia have indicated that water levels in the Kavango River continue to rise due to good rains received of late.

Recent data released by the Namibia Hydrological Service released on Monday showed that water levels at Nkurenkuru in the Kavango West Region increased over the weekend and currently stand at 3.13 metres.

At Rundu, in the Kavango East Region, water levels increased from 1.12 metres recorded last week to 5.41 metres this week.

According to the Namibia Meteorological Services Website, Nkurenkuru recorded 106.0 millimetres (mm) of rain from Wednesday to Sunday, while Rundu recorded 27.7 mm and Rundu Airport 20.8 mm.

The head of the Namibia Hydrological Service, Pauline Mufeti told Namibia Press Agency that the levels are increasing as a result of good rains received in the area, which remain above normal.

The Kavango and Zambezi Rivers are expected to rise in the coming days due to good rains received in their head water catchment areas within the Cuando-Cubango and Zambezi basins.

Reports from Malawi show that heavy rainfall hit parts of that country recently, causing flash floods that left at least one person dead and many reported injured.

The Nyasa Times reported that a 16-year-old boy died and others were taken to the hospital at Chilumba following rains that left Karonga, a village along the western edge of Lake Malawi, under water.

Severe flood warnings remained in place as more than 50 families fled their damaged homes for shelter. The flooding also caused significant crop damage, local officials reportedly said.

In southern Democratic Republic of Congo, at least 10,000 people have been made homeless after flash floods caused a river to burst its banks, killing dozens and laying waste to entire towns and villages.

In Boma, one of the worst-hit towns, residents told Al Jazeera they watched in despair as their loved ones were swept away by surging waters.

Zimbabwe is also reported to have not been spared as reports indicate that a number of low lying areas in Zimbabwe have been seriously affected by flooding.

Zimbabwe’s metrology office has warned that more rains are likely to fall this season causing more problems to a country struggling to deal with the effects of monsoon type of rains.

There are reports that an eight-hour storm pounded Gwanda South last week, washing away three dams and crops in its wake.

Mud huts were destroyed and livestock was swept away following the storm that left a trail of destruction in the impoverished constituency.

The region is still reeling from the effects of the El Nino weather phenomenon, which devastated crops leaving some 18 million people in need of food aid, according to the World Food Programme.

Meteorologists forecast the region will this year experience more rainfall than normal due to an extreme weather pattern known as La Nina.

“What La Nina brings is both good news and bad news,” Lewis Hove, regional agricultural coordinator with the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation told AFP. “The good news is that we are going to get above average rainfall, which normally means good production from our farmers,” Hove is quoted as saying.

“But above average rainfall is going to bring with it floods and water logging in some areas of the region,” said Hove,

Figures from the just-ended 2015/16 harvest indicate a 9.6 million tonnes deficit in regional production of cereals, which include maize, wheat, rice, sorghum and millet.

South Africa, usually the main producer of maize in the region and Botswana and other member states’ prime source of cereals, is facing an estimated 2.6 million metric tonnes deficit. In addition, nearly half a million drought-related liwvestock deaths have been reported in Botswana, Swaziland, South Africa and Zimbabwe alone.

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