Flood-ravaged Mozambique faces new cyclone threat

BY DANIEL R. GANGLER | New York | February 20, 2000

Flood ravaged Mozambique faces the threat of further devastation from a tropical cyclone as early as

Sunday, at the same time relief organizations are scrambling to meet already daunting needs.

Torrential winter rains have caused the Limpopo River to burst its banks displacing more than 200,000

people. The unofficial death toll stands at 48. The river has risen 23 feet higher than normal and is still

rising. Authorities are fighting to keep waters from completely flooding Xai-Xai.

If that weren't enough, a hurricane, named Cyclone Eline, packing winds up to 150 miles per hour hit the eastern coast of

Madagascar Thursday night and is now headed towards Mozambique. Eline is expected to hit the eastern coast of

Mozambique sometime Sunday morning.

Cyclone Eline caused heavy damage on Madagascar, according to the French weather service which reported that 80 percent

of the town of Mahanoro was destroyed. The storm caused seven deaths in the capital city of Antananarivo. Calm weather

returned on Saturday as residents cleaned up debris and crews worked to restore damaged power lines.

The storm lost much of its punch over Madagascar, but it can regain its strength as it passes over the warm waters of

Mozambique Channel on its way to Mozambique. Eline also threatens South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana. These

countries are also reeling from flood waters.

The Mozambique Christian Council of Churches requested the Emergency Response Program of Church World Service

provide $86,000 for initial relief. According to Rick Augsburger, director of the Emergency Response Progam, an estimated

400,000 people have been affected by the wide scale flooding. CWS expects a cooperative appeal with Action By Churches

Together (ACTS), a coalition of Protestant and Orthodox relief organizations, based in Geneva.

The United Nations also plans to launch an inter-agency appeal on Monday, according to Katrina Toll Velasquez, who heads

the U.N. Disaster Assessment and Coordination team.

"There is intense contingency planning under way now," said Velasquez.

UNDAC estimated that 225,000 people were in need of emergency food aid with a potentially 75,000 more at risk.

The Mozambique government has appealed for $2.7 million in immediate international aid. The United States and European

countries have already promised more than $2 million. South Africa has provided military helicopters to carry food and

medical supplies into stranded communities.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief responded Feb. 11 to requests for assistance by approving initial grants to the

United Methodists in Mozambique, the Methodist Church in South Africa and the South African Council of Churches.

The flooding was caused by early rains. The rains began in January instead of March, the usual start of the rainy season,

according to information from ACT. During an 18-hour downpour on Feb. 6 and 7, Maputo and its suburbs experienced their

worst flooding in nearly 40 years.

United Methodist Bishop Joao Somane Machado of Mozambique reported 75 percent of the suburbs had been flooded.

"Some of the houses are disappeared and some are in the water," he said. "Some families have lost their relatives . . . Cholera

is starting again, malaria is getting worse."

According to news sources, as many as 800,000 people have been left vulnerable to malaria, cholera, and other water-bone

diseases in Mozambique.

The floods also have affected connections between the northern and southern parts of the country, according to ACT. "In the

central province of Inhambane, normally semi-arid, the rains are the heaviest in 20 years. The situation is Sofala province is

also worrisome, because of the many rivers which cross it, and suburbs of the city of Beira are already flooded."

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