15 Jan 2015

The South African government is sending men and equipment from the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to assist in search and rescue missions in flood hit areas of the central Mozambican province of Zambezia.

The decision is in response to a request for assistance from the Mozambican authorities. In a statement cited in the electronic version of the South African “Times” newspaper, SANDF spokesperson Jaco Theunissen said "The deployment will consist of two Oryx medium transport helicopters, SA Navy divers and medical personnel from the South African Military Health Service," Persistent torrential rains have led the Mozambican government to declare a “Red Alert” across the central and northern provinces. The Licungo river that flows through the middle of Zambezia has risen to levels never before seen in the history of independent Mozambique. At the town of Mocuba, it has destroyed part of a bridge on the main north-south highway (EN1). Elsewhere in the province there are four other cuts in the road. The result is that overland transport between the northern provinces and the centre and south of the country has become impossible. According to Rita Almeida, spokesperson of the Mozambican government’s National Disasters Technical Council (CTGC), the search and rescue operations also involve two Mozambican Antonov transport aircraft. Aircraft are overflying flooded areas, looking for places where people are surrounded by water. If necessary, supplies will be dropped to them from the air. The number of people known to have died in the Zambezia floods is now 24, following the sinking of a boat on the Licungo at Mocuba on Thursday, with eight people on board. The boat belonged to the country’s relief agency, the National Disasters Management Institute (INGC), and was ferrying people across the river. Four of those on board were members of the National Civil Protection Unit (UNAPROC), involved in the relief operations. The others were two men, a woman and a child. According to a report in Friday’s issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”, there were no life jackets on board the boat. Much of northern Mozambique remains without electricity, following the destruction by the flood waters on Monday of ten pylons carrying power from the Cahora Bassa dam on to Nampula, Niassa and Cabo Delgado provinces. Businesses selling perishable foods risk huge losses, unless they have generators to run refrigeration units. The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in its latest Africa Hazards Outlook bulletin, covering the first week of January, warns that the character of the southern African rainy season is changing, bringing much higher rainfall than normal to the region. “Since late December, the character of the southern Africa monsoon has shifted considerably, as several regions of southeastern Africa continue to experience a significant increase in rains and available ground moisture. This increase has helped both alleviate and completely offset seasonal moisture deficits associated with a poor/delayed start of the monsoon during November and December”, the NOAA says. It adds “During the last 30 days, analysis of rainfall anomaly tendency shows the greatest positive changes (>100mm) have occurred throughout southern Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique and western Madagascar. It is these areas that are now experiencing approximately 150 percent of their normal precipitation for the season”. The NOAA prediction is for further rain in the immediate future, and possibly for the rest of January. This makes it more likely that other major Mozambican rivers will flood – including the Zambezi, the Pungoe, the Buzi, the Save and the Limpopo.
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