| CHOKWE, Mozambique
CHOKWE, Mozambique Feb 8 Electricity and water
were restored to the flood-hit town of Chokwe in southern
Mozambique and residents will be returned to their houses
shortly, authorities said on Friday.
But some low-lying areas will be closed off permanently to
avoid repeats of the fatal floods which have killed 105 people
and left more than 140,000 homeless since October.
"People who cannot go back to their homes, will be relocated
to safer zones within the same district at no cost," said Rita
Almeida, a spokeswoman for the National Institute of Calamity
The floods, the heaviest since devastating rains killed some
800 people in 2000, have left Chokwe, a town of 70,000 people,
nearby towns and huge swathes of farmland completely submerged.
In Chokwe, now a ghost town, a handful of residents
attempted to clean their houses and dry their meagre belongings
on top of roofs, fences and nearby trees.
Brown watermarks line the windowsills of houses and shops.
While most of the flood victims are temporarily housed in
camps in the region, many still do not have shelter, sufficient
water or food, and are forced to sleep under trees or relief
delivery trucks to escape the scorching heat.
"There is not enough water to take a bath, wash clothes or
cook rice with," said 17-year-old Beatriz Paulo, standing behind
dozens of others at the water pump.
Aid groups estimate there is enough water for half of the
people in the camp and food for two-thirds of the families.
"We have to break soap into pieces and it still isn't
enough," said local emergency coordinator Xadreque Chiemei.
The United Nations estimates $30 million will be needed for
food shelter, healthcare and sanitation between now and July.
Following the extensive floods in 2000, the former
Portuguese colony created the INGC and intensified efforts to
give people sufficient warning and to better coordinate a
response. The efforst were praised by the United Nations which
said Mozambique had gone a long way since the last floods then.
Now that the immediate disaster is over, many wonder about
how they will rebuild their lives, especially as most have lost
everything to the floodwaters or the looting that followed.
"It was like a mob coming through," said Pieter Ernst of
World Relief. "People cleaned out the shelves, took everything,
tables, computers, chairs, curtains."
People are still hesitant to return to Chokwe until the
rainy season ends in mid-March.
Others, like Sergio Istoi, who relies on selling tomatoes,
rice and maize for a living, refuses to return unless the state
finds a permanent solution for the disaster-prone area.
"I don't want to go back. This is the second time this
happens and there will be a third. I'm going to lose everything
again," the 33-year-old farmer father of four said.
A permanent solution to Chokwe's flooding problem, usually
caused by excessive rain water surging down the Limpopo river
from neighbouring South Africa and Zimbabwe, could be out of
reach for Mozambique, which has a GDP of around $10 billion.
Rehabilitating the dam along Mozambique's Elephant River and
building additional ones along the Limpopo could cost up to $550
million, said engineers at regional water department ARA-Sul.
"If they don't fix this dyke, we will have the same problem
many times again, whether it rains a lot or a little," said
Amelia Cosa, a district coordinator for the Red Cross.
(Editing by Jon Hemming)