State of Disaster Declared in Masvingo Province of Zimbabwe

The torrential rains and flooding over the past two weeks at the Tokwe-Murkosi Dam in south-central Zimbabwe that have affected more than 22,000 people in the dam’s basin and about 40,000 downstream of the wall has led to the basin of Tokwe-Murkosi Dam and areas downstream as far as the Triangle area being declared a state of disaster by President Mugabe, enabling government to mobilise resources from its partners to assist affected families, it was announced by Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, Ignatius Chombo, on Sunday 9th February.

Tokwe Mukorsi dam Floods
Tokwe-Mukorsi Dam a few days ago. Photo:

The dam wall is reported to be 60% complete, and the dam’s water level is about 5m below the overflow level.

Minister Chombo said that, in terms of the declaration, people below the dam are required to immediately move at least 5km (3.1km) from the river bank and seek higher ground. Those in the basin of the dam must make their way to designated pick up points in their areas for ease of evacuation.

He said that a Cabinet Committee on Civil Protection was to meet on Monday morning to receive a comprehensive briefing before they head to Masvingo to make an assessment of the situation.

Households in the catchment basin of the dam, which will be covered by water when the dam wall is completed, were to be evacuated to designated areas in a sequential manner, but the scheduled moves have been delayed by lack of funds. The rapid rise in the water level behind the incomplete dam wall has caught authorities by surprise, but the declaration should see more resources being directed to the project.

At Kushinga transit camp near Ngundu growth point soldiers and police were seen erecting tents as temporary shelter for hundreds of families and helping some families move their belongings using tractors and scotch carts, but the exercise is moving slowly.

Many families have lost livestock and household goods to the rising waters. Margaret Mudyazvivi of Zifunzi village said she lost all her household property and had been left near destitute by the floods. “I was not at home when I received a call from neighbours that my entire homestead was gradually getting submerged in water” she said, “and when I rushed back I failed to salvage anything”.

floods Tokwe Mukorsi Dam
Floods in the Tokwe Mukorsi Dam area. Photo:

Felix Chikovo, Masvingo provincial administrator and chairman of the Tokwe-Murkosi relocation co-ordinating committee, said there were only 17 vehicles to carry out the evacuation, which is insufficient.

“We need more trucks and we have already sent a request to Government for the trucks fleet to double to nearly 40,’’ he said.

Meanwhile, more than 100 families were evacuated by the Bulawayo Fire Brigade from seven flooded suburbs in Bulawayo on Friday. The affected suburbs were Manningdale, Riverside, Matshamhlophe, Lockview, Parklands, Killarney and Mahatshula.

village near tokwe mukosori dam
Tokwe Mukorsi Floods. Photo by

Elsewhere, four people died on Friday when a bus plunged into Musavezi River along the Mhandamabwe-Shurugwi Road, after a bridge was swept away by the rains.

The Zimbabwean Meteorogical Services Department has said that a deep and very active low pressure system entered Zimbabwe rapidly on Thursday night and had brought more heavy rains to most parts of the country.

Areas that have already recorded high rainfalls included Gweru 82mm (3.25in), Kezi 80mm (3.15in), Kwekwe 73mm (2.87in), Kadoma 69mm (2.72in), Beitbridge 63mm (2.5in), Marondera 58mm (2.28in), Mount Darwin 49mm (2in), Matopos 28mm (1.1in) and Nyanga 27mm (1.06in).

The country’s dam levels continue to increase in most parts of the country due to the inflows from the rainfall, Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) warned in its hydrological update on 5 February. The national dam levels have increased significantly by 10.29% since 27 January 2014 and now stand at 71 per cent full. This is a significant change in the capacity of the dams that were reported to be 46, 1% full in early January.

Chances of flooding remain high in flood prone areas such as Muzarabani, Gokwe, Middle Sabi, Tsholotsho, Malapati and Chikwalakwala due to significant runoff into the major rivers.

Flood water over Tokwe Mukorsi Dam, Masvingo Province, Zimbabwe Source: TerraSAR-X / Landsat 8 Click on the map for full resolution
Flood water over Tokwe Mukorsi Dam, Masvingo Province, Zimbabwe
Source: TerraSAR-X / Landsat 8
Click on the map for full resolution. Image courtesy of Disasters Charter.

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Sources: Zimbabwe Chronicle; All Africa; Africa Review; ReliefWeb