Floods wreak havoc in Zimbabwe as downpours persist

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The persistent rains falling countrywide have seen the usual seasonal flooding in some areas and blocked drains in urban areas.

The rainy season started late, but since New Year rain has been falling persistently in many areas with the Meteorological Services Department forecasting more, and warning of localised rains in excess of 30mm along the main watershed and the Eastern Highlands, with lightning, strong winds and hailstorms expected in some areas.

The Department of Civil Protection (DCP) in Harare has developed a national contingency plan as part of its preparedness to help people in communities in cases of flooding and natural disasters across the country.

The plan approved by Cabinet in November last year is the blueprint that the Government and partners are using to respond to both meteorological and human-induced disasters.

The DCP in Mashonaland Central has said it is on high alert following an incident of flooding in Muzarabani last week where a village head from Soda Village was marooned. Provincial development coordinator Mr Timothy Maregere said Mr Soda was evacuated and airlifted to Harare.

All civil protection units across the province have been restocked and are ready to deal with any incidents. The province has also seen a number of structures damaged by hailstorms and wind since the beginning of the rainy season.

In Mashonaland Central, low-lying areas such as Muzarabani and Mbire are prone to floods, and see these almost every season. Attempts over the years to get people to at least have their houses on higher ground have been resisted with many willing to take risks to be nearer to their fields.

In the Midlands, heavy rains that have been recorded in Gweru since Monday resulted in most suburbs around the city being affected by flash floods. Blocked storm water drains, a major problem in almost all urban areas as people continue to drop litter in the streets, is seen as the major cause of the flooding.

Yesterday morning several buildings including OK supermarket in Gweru CBD had their goods and other properties drenched in water while some residents in western suburbs that included Mkoba 1, 5, 9, 11 and Woodlands had to temporarily abandon their properties as flowing water found its way into houses.

Midlands Provincial Development Coordinator, Mr Abiot Maronge yesterday toured the affected areas to assess the situation.

Mr Maronge said while the CPU was working on measures to provide the affected families with food and temporary shelter, the local authority should work on addressing some drainage systems and clear water runways to avoid flooding.

“It is the duty of the local authority to always make sure that they clear drains and avoid such floods some of which are due to human error,” he said

In Beitbridge Malusungane, Tshamnangana and Kwalu primary schools had their classroom blocks and staff houses damaged by heavy storms in Ward 11 last week.

Beitbridge chairperson for the Department of Civil Protection, Mrs Sikhangazile Mafu-Moyo who is also the District Development Coordinator, said 46 homesteads were also affected by heavy rains

She said 42 houses in Ward 11, two in Ward 12, and one in Ward 8 under Beitbridge West Constituency were destroyed.

“The Ward Civil Protection Committees are busy assessing the damage and the needs on the ground,” said Mrs Mafu-Moyo.

“However, we have delivered tents and groceries to a family of eight in Siyoka area, Ward 12, where a hut was struck by a bolt of lightning. We will mobilise resources for other families based on the assessment report from the ward committees”.

She said so far no human life had been lost and that assessments were continuing in other parts of the district.

The officials said they had also sent early warning messages to communities living in low-lying areas and near streams, rivers and water bodies.

In Matabeleland North, heavy rains that have been falling in Victoria Falls have exposed the municipality’s poor drainage system after flash floods swept through houses and damaged roads in Mkhosana suburb.

While no fatalities or serious destruction of infrastructure have been reported, residents lost groceries and other property that got submerged in water which in some cases was at knee level.

Some were stuck indoors as they could not go out of their houses, which were surrounded by water.

There are few storm drains in Mkhosana and water flows on the surface whenever it rains.

Poor drainage is a major concern which residents even raised during budget consultation meetings.

Department of Civil Protection director Mr Nathan Nkomo said the national contingency plan was developed following the regional weather forecast which predicted normal to above normal rainfall.

“The month of October 2021 saw the onset of the rainfall season which has been characterised by heavy rains and flash floods in various parts of the country,” he said.

“Urban areas have not been spared given the damages witnessed in all major cities. Social amenities infrastructure damaged as a result of the heavy rains includes schools and clinics have also been destroyed by the rains.

“Civil Protection Committees have been given the task of conducting damage assessments in order to ascertain immediate needs of affected households as well as costing of damages to social infrastructure to facilitate mobilisation of resources to undertake repairs.”

Mr Nkomo said submissions from provinces where damages have been reported would be received as rapid damage assessments were being conducted.

He said reports submitted to date indicated that most houses damaged by adverse weather conditions were built using poor building materials of pole and dagga while poor workmanship on some houses built with brick and mortar resulted in increased vulnerability to harsh weather conditions. – Herald