It’s Armageddon as floods hit region

By Lovemore Ranga Mataire

SADC and the United Nations have warned regional leaders to brace for possible humanitarian crisis due to floods that have hit the region for the past three months since January.

In a statement, SADC Climate Services Centre’s Dr Bradwell Garanganga said Zimbabwe was hardest hit by drought last year and appears to be the worst affected by floods this year.

Dr Garanganga said despite the prospects of a good harvest this year, the spectre of hunger, displacement and diseases still hovers above most people in the southern parts of Zimbabwe.

In an interview with the UK-based The Guardian newspaper, spokesperson for the UN office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Elisabeth Byrs, warned of serious humanitarian crisis in the region saying almost all countries could be affected.

“We fear flash floods. It’s rather common in the region and this time we are seeing heavy rains than previous years. Five countries are on alert for flooding – Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa will all declare a disaster,” said Byrs.

She said some of the big rivers like the Zambezi and Okavango have risen to double their normal levels.

Meteorologists attribute the floods to a natural weather cycle known as La Nina and southern oscillation mechanisms linked to recent flooding in Australia and Philippines.

Zimbabwe has already declared the floods a national disaster and has appealed for US$100 million to assist people affected by the floods, particularly those in the southern parts of the country.

The declaration of a national disaster by President Robert Mugabe came in the wake of 246 people killed, 128 injured and 2,000 displaced by the floods. Infrastructure like roads and bridges have also not been spared with five bridges on major highways swept away.

At least 13 districts and five provinces of Matabeleland South, North, Midlands, Masvingo and Manicaland are the hardest hit.

In Mozambique, 44 people have reportedly died while 79,000 have been affected in Maputo, Gaza, Inhambane and Nampula.  There is a huge risk of vector and waterborne diseases like malaria and cholera. The country has since launched a US$10.2 million flash flood appeal to support government-led response initiative.

At least 100 floods related deaths have been reported in South Africa since January with at least 8,400 from their homes and prompted the government to declare 33 disaster areas. The estimated cost of damage to infrastructure is R160 billion. South Africa’s Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini this week told the media that 20,000 people or about 5,000 families have been affected and are in need of assistance.

Although no deaths have so far been reported, Malawi has also experienced some flash floods particularly in the four traditional authorities of Ndindi, Pemba, Kambwiri and Maganga. At least 35,000 people have been affected with 7,216 displaced.

On Monday, Madagascan authorities issued a warning of severe floods and storm damage as tropical cyclone Enawo bore down on the island’s north-east coast.

The cyclone was expected to hit land on Tuesday morning and the Madagascan government warned residents in its path to evacuate low-lying areas, seek shelter and stock up on food and water supplies.

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