January 26, 2006

Emergency preparations as rivers rise

Mozambique's disaster contingency plans could be put to the test as continued heavy rains threaten serious flooding in the central regions of the country. The water level in Mozambique's largest river, the Zambezi, is precariously high in Marromeu district in the central Sofala province. The National Water Board (DNA) said it had reached 5.54 metres - more than a metre above the flood alert level of 4.75 metres. "We are still worried about the rest of the country because it is the rainy season and more heavy rains are forecast," said Rita Almeida, head of the planning department in the national disaster agency, INGC, which has urged communities living in valleys along the Zambezi and the Pśngłe rivers in Sofala to be on high alert. The INGC has improved its contingency planning since the calamitous floods in 2000, which killed 700 people and washed away homes and transport infrastructure in the south of the country. Orlando Francisco, INGC director in the central province of Zambezia, which has a population of 3.4 million people, said that it was still raining in his region and he was particularly concerned about five districts: Chinde, Mopeia, Morrumbala, Manganja de Costa and Namacurra.
The government has been encouraging people to move from the fertile flood-prone lowlands to higher ground, but has met with mixed results. In Chinde district between 50.000 and 60.000 people live precariously close to the river Licungu. "It is difficult to relocate so many people because the highlands are far away and they would not have their plots to farm," Francisco noted. (Rts)

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