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Cahora Bassa floodgates opened

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 10 March 2010

Flooding in Mozambique killed two people and displaced hundreds of families, prompting the government to step up rescue operations and issue a red alert for some areas.

Cahora Bassa

Torrential rains that have battered central Mozambique for weeks have raised water levels in the Cahora Bassa, a major dam on the Zambezi River. Authorities have opened the floodgates to ease the pressure on the dam walls.

Opening the floodgates is expected to continue to raise water levels in the river Zambezi, Africa’s fourth largest, and spill over to villages along its pathway through central Mozambique, independent daily O Pais reported on Wednesday. The red alert, one step down from declaring a disaster area, was announced by the government after a cabinet meeting late on Tuesday.

Government spokesman Alberto Nkutumula said authorities would forcibly evacuate around 130,000 people from areas near river as water levels continue to rise due to heavy rain. “All the conditions have been created to evacuate and relocate 130,000 people living in areas of risk,” Nkutumula was cited by Portuguese news agency Lusa as saying. Despite the red alert, he said Mozambique did not plan to ask for international aid at this time. “There is internal capacity to deal with the situation.”

Mozambicans are often victims of flooding during the rainy season. Floods in 2000 and 2007 forced hundreds of thousands from their homes in the impoverished southern African nation. Since then, Mozambique has minimised the loss of life by evacuating people to higher ground at the start of the rains. But in this year’s floods, two people were killed after being swept away by the floodwaters and one person was eaten by a crocodile, according to O Pais.

An official for Mozambique’s National Disaster Management Institute (INGC) said the evacuation of thousands of people living along the river bank of the Zambezi and other flood-prone rivers would avert any more deaths. “All the people that were victims of floods in previous years are being moved,” Luis Pacheco, an official from INGC in the central province of Sofala, was cited by O Pais as saying.

Source: Reuters Africa

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