35?000 still trapped by flooding Limpopo

2013-01-25 00:00

JOHANNESBURG — Thousands of people have been rescued from their roofs and from trees in southern Mozambique.

For the last few days, the town of Chokwe has been inundated by the flooding Limpopo River, downstream of Massingir Dam.

Thousands more still await rescue, while the floodwaters of the Limpopo race towards Xai-Xai, said Mozambique disaster management co-ordinator Bonifacio Antonio.

He said the 35 000 residents of Chokwe were cut off. The roofs of their homes were barely above the water and powerlines and cellphone masts had been washed away.

Eskom spokesperson Hilary Joffe said powerlines from the Cahora-Bassa Dam on the Zambezi had snapped, reducing by half the amount of power supplied to South Africa.

HBC, the company that manages the hydro-electric scheme, is repairing the line with the help of Eskom technicians.

Kotie Petterson, co-ordinator of AgriSAMoz, a support organisation for farmers, said the Limpopo was flowing up to 10 km wide at places upstream of Chokwe and the water level had risen by 18 metres in a few days. More than 4 000 ha of rice fields had been flooded at Chokwe.

Patricia Nakell, a spokeperson for the United Nations in Mozambique, said they were trying to ascertain the scale of the humanitarian need.

By yesterday afternoon, the official death toll was 17.

Antonio said a task team was to meet yesterday to decide whether to seek South Africa’s help with the rescue operation.

Deputy International Relations Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim said SA would respond to any appeal from the Mozambique government.

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