Disease follows flooding to devastated southern Africa

February 26, 2000
Web posted at: 3:51 a.m. EST (0851 GMT)

From staff and wire reports

MAPUTO, Mozambique -- Disease is threatening to bring fresh misery to hundreds of thousands across southern Africa as yet more flood waters drench the stricken region.

Forecasters said a depression stalled over Mozambique Sunday would dump more water on that country throughout the morning and into the afternoon.

Torrential rain in the last few weeks has caused devastating floods across southern Africa, killing more than 200 people and destroying the homes of about a half-million people.

Water-borne diseases now threaten hundreds of thousands who have no fresh water and are cut off from medical help.

Governments in the region appealed for urgent international aid as floods cut the main road between Zimbabwe and South Africa.

A big economic setback for Mozambique

"We expect a big wave of water to hit the Gaza province (in Mozambique) tomorrow," Nicholas Lamade, a coordinator with the U.N. World Food Program said Friday.

Rivers in South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe burst their banks as Cyclone Eline swept west from Mozambique, bringing new rains to lands already waterlogged by more than two weeks of storms.

Lamade said the food program's five South African helicopters and three light planes were grounded for service in anticipation of more problems over the weekend. The rising Limpopo River is expected to burst its banks in the Gaza region.

"Economically, this is a very big setback and we will have to work hard to compensate for the loss in the years to come. It is a big loss to the economy," Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano said.

Mozambique, one of Africa's poorest countries, was on its way to recovery from a ruinous 16-year civil war which ended in 1992, but Chissano said those gains were being eroded by the worst floods in 50 years.

Chissano has appealed for more than $60 million in international aid, and the United Nations issued a worldwide appeal for an additional $13 million to help more than 800,000 people affected by the floods and Cyclone Eline.

The European Union is giving $1 million, and former colonial power Portugal has pledged $2 million.

Africa's busiest border crossing under water

In South Africa, state radio reported that road traffic between South Africa and Zimbabwe came to a standstill Friday when the main bridge between the two countries was flooded.

It said Beitbridge, Africa's busiest border post on the main artery between South Africa and central Africa, was under water after the Limpopo River burst its banks Thursday night.

"The situation is desperate. There are queues of trucks, cars and buses stretching, on the Zimbabwe side, at least a kilometer," a reporter for the Zimbabwe Information Service told Reuters.

In Harare, long lines formed at gas stations and some drivers were waiting up to a day for a quarter-tank of fuel.

Zimbabwe is South Africa's biggest trading partner, with Pretoria's exports to Harare running at more than $800 million a year.

Zimbabwe declares disaster zones

Zimbabwe has appealed for international help and declared three provinces disaster zones.

Floods there have swept away roads, bridges, dams and power lines and left an estimated 250,000 people homeless.

In Botswana, where rains already have washed away 10,000 homes, a new cyclone alert was issued Friday and the government appealed for urgent help to deal with the crisis.

About 34,000 people urgently need food and shelter and the government estimates damage to the infrastructure at $8.5 million.

"I have received reports that a cyclone is expected to strike over the eastern parts of southern Africa over the next few days, and this may worsen the rainfall and flooding situation in Botswana," President Festus Mogae of Botswana said in a radio broadcast.

Renewed flooding across northern parts of South Africa has killed at least 12 people, South African police said, raising the death toll to more than 55 this month.

Two tourist camps in South Africa's Kruger National Park were evacuated Friday due to flooding.

Cyclone drives heavy rains toward flood-ravaged Mozambique, Botswana
February 21, 2000
Torrential rains may slam Mozambique late Sunday
February 20, 2000
Cyclone threatens second blow to battered Mozambique
February 19, 2000
Rains wreak havoc in South Africa, Mozambique
February 8, 2000

CIA world factbook: Mozambique
CIA world factbook: Zimbabwe
CIA world factbook: Botswana
NOAA: Hurricanes, typhoons, and tropical cyclones
United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
Mozambique Home Page
The Republic of Botswana

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