Zimbabwe – Hundreds Evacuated After Floods in Matabeleland North Province

Heavy rain brought flooding to parts of western Zimbabwe on Wednesday, 14 December 2016.

In the south east of the country, heavy rain increased river levels in parts of Masvingo province. Six people were swept away as they pushed a vehicle that was stuck in a flooded river in Chiredzi.

Meanwhile authorities are warning that the country faces one of the worst droughts in 25 years with dam levels at dam levels at a national average of 37.9%, well below the 60% normally expected at this time of year.

Floods in Matabeleland North Province

Local media in Zimbabwe are reporting that around 100 families have evacuated their homes in Hwange District in Matabeleland North Province after severe flooding struck in the early hours on Wednesday.

Local civil protection and police helped affected residents to evacuate their homes. Parts of the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls highway have been blocked by flood water and debris.

The affected district is a coal mining area. Hwange Colliery Company managing director, Thomas Makore, told Radio VOP Zimbabwe, “The affected people who make more than 80 households have been evacuated and are housed at a hall. There were no casualties although people lost their property. They will be kept there until we are sure their houses are safe.”

There have also been some reports that 200 miners were trapped underground as a result of the floods. Officials from the Hwange Colliery Company confirmed that parts of a mine have been flooded, but were unable to confirm whether any miners were trapped.

Masvingo province

Six people were swept away as they pushed a vehicle that was stuck in a flooded river in Chiredzi, Masvingo province, on 14 December. Other passengers managed to swim to safety. A police sub aqua team has since recovered 4 bodies, according to local media.

Flood and Rain Warnings

Last week, Zimbabwe’s Meteorological Services Department (MSD) issued a warning about potential floods in several parts of the country.

On Tuesday the government warned the public to be on high alert for flash floods during the summer season, amid reports that 31 people have drowned, with 13 schools and 394 homesteads destroyed since the beginning of the rainy season this year.

Yesterday the department said that further heavy rain is expected over the next 7 days. Central watershed and Eastern Highlands are likely to be most affected.

Drought in the South

MSD added that, regarding the current drought in the south, the rains are expected to “usher in a big improvement, especially in the dry and arid regions of southern Zimbabwe.”

Dams are at their lowest levels for over 20 years. Earlier this week, Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) chief executive officer, Jefter Sakupwanya, told reporters that as of 09 December, 2016 dam levels were at a national average of 37.9%. This time last year levels were over 60%.

He added: “This is the lowest level to be reached by our dams at this time of the year since 1995. We are experiencing the worst drought in 25 years. Surface water sources started drying across the country as early as August 2016.

“Water rationing in some parts of the country started as early as May, barely a month after the end of the 2015/16 rainy season.”

The drought has been so severe in parts of southern Zimbabwe that many farmers have been forced to leave their farms and seek greener pastures elsewhere.

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Flood Summary

Last updated: December 22, 2016
Event
Masvingo and Matabeleland North, Zimbabwe, December 2016
Date
December 14 to December 22, 2016
Type
River flood
Cause
Extreme rainfall

Locations

A - Hwange
B - Chiredzi

Damages

Evacuated
500 people
Hwange District in Matabeleland North Province - December 14 to December 16, 2016
Fatalities
6 people
Chiredzi, Masvingo province - December 14 to December 14, 2016