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Mozambique braces for cyclone Gloria

September 13, 2017 8:30 AM
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Mozambique is bracing itself for yet another battering as cyclone Gloria moves from Madagascar towards the Mozambican channel. The cyclone is expected to reach the country on Saturday.

On Friday, the Pretoria Weather Bureau warned that the cyclone was expected to hit the Eastern Mozambican Channel late on Saturday and could re-intensify as it moved over the channel.

However, the weather bureau emphasised that there was no clear indication that Gloria would cause heavy rainfall over southern Mozambique or the north-eastern parts of South Africa.

Since the beginning of February the floods have claimed more than 100 lives in the Northern Province and although the death toll for Mozambique is not yet known, an indication of the magnitude of the tragedy came when the Mozambican government appealed to donors for 700 body bags on Friday.

Since February 11, the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) has rescued over 12 000 people.

On Friday evening they said they would start cutting back on rescues to concentrate on distributing relief aid.

"We believe that a significant number of people have been lifted out of the affected areas," Lieutenant Colonel Jaco Klopper of the SANDF said.

Klopper said that from Saturday they would reduce their rescue helicopters from seven to three to comb the most affected areas of Chibuto, Xai Xai and Chokwe.

As footage of people wading through chest deep waters and accounts of endless rescues were being flashed on television screens around the globe, the world community sprang into action to help the SANDF troops.

Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe met on Friday to organise a more co-ordinated approach to relief efforts, particularly ahead of Cyclone Gloria.

They agreed to produce a strategic plan within 48 hours outlining practical steps to mitigate the effects of cyclone Gloria, should it strike.

The United Nations estimated that between 800 000 and one million Mozambicans had lost their homes following the worst floods in decades in that country.

Tragedy struck during the rescue efforts when four toddlers drowned after a rescue dinghy's engine cut out and the craft drifted into a tree and overturned, tipping its 17 passengers into the swift currents, Associated Press reported.

The boat's South African pilot Peter Britz said he clambered up a tree along with the remaining survivors and got a taste of what thousands of people have endured since the floods started.

"There are snakes in the trees, stinging ants, wasps and lots of mosquitoes," Britz said after rescuers ferried him and the 13 survivors to safety.

"These people have been sitting in the trees all these days with these things crawling on them and biting them," Britz said.

"I didn't realise what they were going through until I got stuck in a tree."

Aid officials said thousand of Mozambicans stuck in trees were driven by hunger and thirst to eat the carcasses of drowned animals and drink filthy floodwater, putting them at risk of diseases such as cholera and typhoid.

UN aid agencies said they had received more than US$32-million (about R192-million) in financial contributions, but the International Red Cross said it had doubled its appeal for aid to Mozambique and other southern African countries hit by the growing crisis.

Several European countries answered the call and offered financial assistance and logistical support.

Rescue efforts are set to re-intensify with the expected arrival at the weekend of the first complement of US troops, cargo planes and helicopters in Mozambique.

Initially there were only six South African Airforce helicopters deployed in the region. As rescue operations intensified, however, this number swelled to 17.

Mozambicans also face the added threat of dislodged landmines - a legacy of the war waged between Frelimo and South African-backed Renamo.

Meanwhile, residents of Northern Province and Mpumalanga are rebuilding their lives after floods tore their roads and bridges apart and caused houses to collapse, leaving thousands of homeless.

Police spokesperson Ronel Otto said 101 people have died since February 2 when the floods began.

At least R1,1-billion damage was caused to the province's infrastructure.


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