3 Dead in Mozambique Floods

Three children have died and 206 houses have been destroyed in the Cabo Delgado and Nampula provinces of northern Mozambique as heavy rains continue to pound the country. The rains are reported to have fallen for more than 15 days non-stop in districts of the Cabo Delgado province.

The flooded Pungue river in central Sofala province has submerged a portion of the main highway between Mutua and Tica, about 80 kilometres west of the port city of Beira, cutting off traffic to and from bordering Zimbabwe, as well as fuel supplies to Zambia and Malawi. On Thursday 13 February, the river was reported by the National Water Board (DNA) to be at 8.06m (26ft), more than 2m (6ft) above flood alert level, and continuing to rise. At that stage, the highway was still open, but it was officially closed to traffic over the weekend.

pungue river in flood 2011
Pungue River in flood during 2011. Photo: rabanito

The railway, which is at a substantially higher elevation than the road, has so far escaped damage and, on Sunday 16 February 2014, the rail and port company, CFM, began offering motorists places on a 15 wagon train running between Tica and Dondo stations, bypassing the flooded section of the highway. However, after carrying nine vehicles on the 40km (25 mile) journey on Sunday, the train left Dondo on Monday without a single vehicle, even after waiting several hours.

Motorists claim the cost of the ticket for the journey is too much for them, being 1,267 Meticais (US$41) for a light motor vehicle and 3,511MZN (US$113) for lorries. Some have defied the highway closure and, after switching their engines off to protect them, have enlisted the help of local people to push their vehicles through the flooded section.

Threats of flooding were also reported for the Licungo river in Zambezia province, where a flood surge moving downriver from Gurue in Upper Zambezia on Monday caused the river level to rise to 1.68m (5’6”) above flood alert level at the town of Mocuba. This could lead to serious flooding downstream in Maganja da Costa and Namacurra districts, the National Water Board (DNA) has warned.
The city of Quelimane, provincial capital of Zambezia, has suffered severe flooding in neighbourhoods that “suffer chronic drainage problems”. In some cases houses have been flooded by water half a metre deep.

Although the Zambezi River was reported to be 62cm (2’1”) above alert level at Caia on Thursday, the Cahora Bassa Hydroelectric Dam on the Zambezi river was reported by DNA on Wednesday 12 February to be only 62.81 per cent full, and was not considered a threat to areas downstream. The outflow rate of the dam was actually reduced by the operator, Hidroelectrica de Cahora Bassa (HCB), to lower flood risks downstream.

In the southern province of Gaza, there was a sharp rise in the level of the Limpopo river because of recent heavy rains in Botswana and Zimbabwe last week, with the river expected to approach flood alert level at the town of Chokwe over the weekend.

The Save river has submerged measuring equipment near its mouth at Nova Mambone, south of Beira, where flooding has also destroyed six houses and cut off two schools. The Save river is fed by the Runde river, a tributary of which is the Tokwe river in Zimbabwe, on which the unfinished Tokwe-Makorsi dam is being built. There is concern that, should the dam wall fail, this would not only have devastating effects in southern Zimbabwe, but would produce a flood surge down the Save river into Mozambique.

Sources: Star Africa; All Africa, and also here