Mozambique News Agency

Floods update - 9th March 2001

Storm causes death and destruction in Nampula

Maputo, 9 Mar (AIM) - At least two people were killed and one was seriously injured as a consequence of heavy rains and strong winds that hit the coast of the northern province of Nampula on Wednesday and Thursday, reports Friday's issue of the daily paper "Noticias".

The storm is also reported to have destroyed dozens of houses, and boats and made access roads impassable on the mainland and on Mozambique Island, off the Nampula coast.

The storm, classified as a tropical depression, was formed in the Mozambique Channel, off the coast of the northernmost province of Cabo Delgado, and is moving southward. By Thursday night it was battering the coast of Zambezia province, and it is feared that it will affect Sofala some time on Friday.

A source in the Nampula Maritime administration noted that this so far the authorities have only been able to give a preliminary estimate of the damage. More thorough assessment will be done when the bad weather is over.

The storm, with wind speeds of about 50 kilometres per hour, is moving southward at a rate of 16 kilometres an hour. there are fears that the storm may intensify and become a cyclone.

"INAM (the National Meteorology Institute) continues monitoring the evolution of the tropical depression and warns people from the areas potentially at risk to take protective measures because of the rains and strong winds", said an INAM spokesman.

Meanwhile, rescue operations are continuing in the Zambezi valley, but the teams continue to face resistance on the part of local residents, who are unwilling to leave the areas at risk.

In Inhangoma, in Tete province, the rescue teams managed to bring to safety 24 people on Thursday, but it took a lot of persuasion. Further downstream, in Luabo, in Zambezia, 300 others were rescued this week.

In Luabo, the rescue work is made particularly difficult because all infrastructures, including roads and houses are now difficult to locate, and people are moving about in small canoes. (AIM)

Zambezi still rising at Marromeu

Maputo, 9 Mar (AIM) - The Zambezi river at Marromeu, in the central Mozambican province of Sofala, is continuing to rise, Silvano Langa, the director of the National Disaster Management Institute (INGC), told reporters on Friday.

Speaking at a Maputo press briefing, Langa said the river was now 7.63 metres high at Marromeu: when it reaches eight metres, the protective dike will be overwhelmed, "and Marromeu will be totally inundated".

Despite this people are still in Marromeu town, attempting to lead a more or less normal life, and work is continuing at the area's largest employer, the sugar plantation and mill of the Sena Company.

Langa said that it remains government policy to evacuate Marromeu and Luabo, on the opposite bank of the river, and bring their residents to the accommodation centre at Chupanga, on higher ground within Marromeu district.

Further upstream, the latest flood surge has passed, and the Zambezi has subsided somewhat: thus at Mutarara, a severely flooded district in Tete province, the level of the river on Thursday was 6.53 metres, a slight decline on the 6.62 metres recorded at the start of the week.

The severity of further flooding on the lower Zambezi will depend to a large extent on the amount of water released by the two giant dams upstream - Kariba, on the Zambia/Zimbabwe border, and Cahora Bassa in Tete.

The Mozambican national water authorities are hoping to achieve cooperation with the neighbouring countries so as to synchronise discharges between the Kariba and Cahora Bassa dams, Langa said.

The point of reference for this exercise is Tete city, the largest urban centre on the banks of the river. The INGC hopes that the discharges from the dams can be managed so that the river at Tete does not go above eight metres - as it did in 1978, the year of the worst floods on the Zambezi in living memory. Currently the level of the river at Tete is about 7.5 metres.

On Friday, although the dam lake has reached its theoretical holding capacity, Cahora Bassa actually reduced its discharges. At the request of the National Water Board (DNA), the dam management closed the fifth floodgate, which had been half open. The first four floodgates remain fully open.

So the outflow from Cahora Bassa has fallen from about 8,500 to about 8,000 civic metres a second.

Fears about the storm currently in the Mozambique Channel have lessened somewhat, since it has changed course, and is now moving towards Madagascar.

The storm, classified as a tropical depression, had battered the coasts of Cabo Delgado, Nampula and Zambezia provinces, but latest reports are that it is moving away from the mainland.

The team of 80 South African armed forces personnel currently assisting in the rescue and relief efforts will not be withdrawn on Friday as earlier planned.

Langa said contacts had been made between the Mozambican and South African authorities to ensure that the South African team would stay for longer. Mozambique has also asked the South African Defence Ministry to provide hovercraft and amphibious vehicles for work in the Zambezi valley. (AIM)

Traffic on Beira-Zimbabwe road interrutped again

Maputo, 9 Mar (AIM) - A new rise in the level of the Pungue river, in the central province of Sofala, has again made road traffic from Beira west to Zimbabwe, and south to Maputo, impossible.

It is the second time this year that the Pungue has flooded the Mutua-Tica stretch of the road, in Nhamatanda district, to such an extent that the authorities have felt obliged to ban all traffic from using the road - in mid-February traffic along this stretch of road was halted for a week.

As a result more than 80 vehicles have been held at both Mutua and Tica.

Tica has become a point of concentration for trucks from neighbouring Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, bringing goods for export from Beira port, and for passenger buses from Maputo and Tete.

Alternative transport is currently provided by the central branch of the publicly-owned ports and railways company (CFM-Centro) which runs trains that ferry light vehicles and passengers past the flooded stretch of road.

Quoted by Radio Mozambique on Friday, Public Works and Housing Minister Roberto White said that it is not yet possible to assess the damage as the rains are still falling - the rainy season continues until the end of March.

The interruption of traffic on the road brings losses to the country's economy, said White, but the ban has to be observed in order to protect human lives. (AIM)

New dam on the Zambezi could be concluded by 2010

Maputo, 9 Mar (AIM) - Work on the Mepanda Uncua hydroelectric dam on the Zambezi river could begin in two years, and be concluded by 2010.

Juliao Pondeca, the managing director of the Mozambican government's Technical Unit for the Implementation of Hydroelectric Projects (UTIP), told a Maputo press conference on Friday that the building of the dam is a given, since preliminary studies undertaken by an international consortium from 1999 to June 2000 indicate that Mepanda Uncua is an appropriate place for the development of a power project with an estimated generating capacity of between 1,100 and 2,400 megawatts.

Pondeca added that the building of the new dam is costed at about three billion US dollars, of which one billion has been earmarked for the transmission lines.

Apart from the building of this new dam, there are plans for the construction of a second power station at the existing Cahora Bassa dam, on the north bank of the river.

Currently, the second stage of the Mepanda Uncua studies, which involves technical studies, environmental and social impact analysis, and public consultations is under way.

"If all continues as normal, the building of the dam can start within two years", said Pondeca.

The studies, he added, aim at finding mechanisms that will enable the mitigation of possible negative aspects that can occur in the region, and identify other development projects that can benefit the local population.

Public consultations will be permanent, said Pondeca, calling on politicians, business and civil society to get involved in the project so that it can be carried out on a basis of consensus, always respecting national interests.

The salient questions asked so far during the public consultations are the feasibility of the project, and the future of the local population, he said.

The government had deemed it necessary to invest in more hydroelectric dams since the country is far from being completely covered by electric power, said Pondeca.

He denied that the project was an attempt by the Mozambican government to circumvent its divergences with the Portuguese management of the Cahora Bassa dam.

"It'll be a tool in the hands of Mozambicans for the management of draught and flood situations, as well as contributing to electrification", he said.

There is a market for the resulting power, he thought, adding that "in ten years time we'll still have a market to compete in" - plans suggest that the building of the dam will be completed by 2010.

Although the state is taking part in the project, it is doing so not with the intention of being in control, said Pondeca. "The state has its role, but the project is private", he stressed, adding that if the state wanted to take a considerable share in the project it would have to come up with more than 700 million US dollars.

Only about 240 families will be affected by the building of the dam, he said, adding that they will all be compensated.

Mepanda Uncua is 70 kilometres downstream from Cahora Bassa. (AIM)

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