Floodwaters in central Mozambique have displaced at least 100 families and the death toll in neighbouring Zimbabwe has risen to at least nine as heavy rains lashed the neighbouring southern African countries, according to media reports.
Sergio Moiane, administrator of the district of Buzi in Sofala Province, in central Mozambique, told local media at least 100 families had been evacuated from their homes in the low-lying area of Bandua after experiencing consistently heavy rainfall since 7 December. He said floodwater had swept away about 188 hectares of crops, although water levels in the Buzi River had begun to recede.
In neighbouring Zimbabwe, the state-run newspaper, the Herald, said the government had declared a state of emergency in the Muzarabani District of Mashonaland Central Province, in the north, while extensive flood damage was reported in Masvingo Province's Chiredzi and Chivi districts in the southeast.
The declaration of an emergency allows the state to provide assistance to Mashonaland Central Province in the southeast of the country, where two people have died and more than 600 families were left homeless by flooding.
Sibusisiwe Ndlovu, deputy director of the Civil Protection Unit (CPU), the government's emergency assistance arm, the told the Herald that floods were leaving a trail of destruction in Chiredzi District, on the floodplains of the Runde River in southeastern Masvingo.
Among the nine people reportedly killed by the flooding in Masvingo were a father and his two children, who drowned while attempting to cross the flooded Shashe River in Chivi District, also in the southeast, on Wednesday, while two other children were swept away trying to cross the swollen rivers.
The CPU remained on high alert, expecting more flooding in southern Masvingo because of the continuous rain, the newspaper said.
The heavy rains in Zimbabwe are part of a weather system stretching south from the Democratic Republic of Congo in central Africa to the southeastern shore of the continent, across Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. More rain is expected.
"Indications are that the wet spell will extend beyond today into Christmas, with heavy rains expected in the northern parts of the country, including Harare and the Zambezi Valley," Zimbabwean meteorologist Hector Chikoore told the Herald.
A year of natural disasters
The flooding in Mozambique caps a year of natural disasters that have descended on one of the world poorest countries: early in 2007 drought severely affected the central and southern parts of the country, while major flooding struck along the Zambezi River in the north.
February this year brought cyclone Favio. According to World Food Programme (WFP) Country Director Ken Davies, his organisation was already assisting 471,000 people throughout the country as a result of the drought and flooding.
Davies warned that supplies were becoming thin. "The bad news is that we have had to cut cereal portions by 50 percent and there is no oil in the rations," he told IRIN, adding that WFP was "anxious to receive funding" because they expected to continue assisting people into March/April 2008 when new the harvests were due.
According to the Mozambican government's annual Food Security and Nutrition Vulnerability Report, up to 660,000 people would need food assistance until then.
Davies said WFP had contributed to local development by purchasing a great portion of the food they distributed this year. He said the US$13 million spent on over 45,000 tonnes of food in Mozambique was a "tremendous contribution to increasing the size of the local market."