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Mozambique floods threaten 50 000

22 January 2013, 14:00

Maputo - Mozambique authorities on Tuesday considered the evacuation of 50 000 people after heavy rainfall in the flood-struck south, where hundreds died in a major deluge over a decade ago, an UN aid agency said.

The waters have killed 35 people since the start of the rainy season last October - 13 in January alone - and eight major rivers are above alert levels.

"The alert level is five metres. Yesterday it reached six [metres]. If it will go one more metre then it will create a big problem," said Hanoch Barlevi, local emergency specialist at the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef).

"If this scenario happens, the community that is going to be affected is around 50 000 people," he told AFP.

The southern Africa nation is experiencing the heaviest rainfall since devastating floods in 2000 killed around 800 people and affected millions.

According to Barlevi, authorities have since developed sophisticated disaster management systems, so a repeat of the tragedy is unlikely.

From Sunday to Monday almost 185mm of rain poured over the Limpopo river basin in southern province Gaza, where the most vulnerable communities live.

Rains in neighbouring countries also swelled rivers, and authorities opened the sluices from two dams in the south to lower dangerous levels.

Coastal Mozambique is home to nine international river basins, making it especially vulnerable to flooding. Although the rainfall has stopped in most areas, the risk of flooding remains high as waters arrive from further inland.

"Unfortunately there are always consequences from the entire region and not only in Mozambique. The rain stops but the effects come a few days later," Barlevi explained.

Mozambique's disaster management teams are set to meet later on Tuesday to decide on evacuations.



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