President Mugabe has declared the flooding that threatens over 60 000 families downstream of Tokwe-Murkosi Dam, Masvingo, a state of disaster, according to a report by Zvamaida Murwira and George Maponga of the Herald. The declaration enables Government to mobilise more resources to assist affected families that have had their homes, food and other belongings swept away by the floods.Much effort will go towards a large-scale evacuation.
The Meteorogical Services Department has warned that a deep and very active low pressure system that entered Zimbabwe rapidly on Thursday night was bringing more heavy rains to most parts of the country.
The state of disaster was announced by Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Dr Ignatius Chombo in Harare. Dr Chombo said water levels at Tokwe-Murkosi Dam rapidly rose to 671m above sea level on Monday last week, creating a flood emergency that threatened almost 20 000 people in the basin. “On February 4, the water level was five metres from overflowing thus extending the scope and extent of the emergency by threatening a further 40 000 people downstream. Heavy incessant rains are set to continue in the catchment,” he said. “Given the magnitude of the threat to extensive flooding, His Excellency, the President Cde RG Mugabe has declared a state of disaster in regard to the basin of Tokwe-Murkosi Dam, and areas downstream as far as the Triangle area.”
Minister Chombo said the declaration was in terms of Section 27 of the Civil Protection Act (Chapter 10:06). He said communities downstream of Tokwe-Murkosi Dam along Tokwe River and its tributaries were at risk. “They are required to immediately move to at least five kilometres from the river bank and seek higher ground,” he said. “Those in the river basin must continue to make their way to designated pick up points in their areas for easy evacuation.”
Minister Chombo said the Cabinet Committee on Civil Protection would meet last week for a debriefing and head to Masvingo for an on-site assessment. A visit by The Herald to Tokwe-Murkosi revealed a humanitarian crisis in the making as Government battles to evacuate more than 2 200 families whose homes were submerged in the catchment area. An Air Force of Zimbabwe helicopter was assisting in the evacuation of 46 families trapped in the flood basin. Hundreds of families have been sleeping in the open for nearly a week at three transit camps ahead of relocation to Nuanetsi Ranch.
There are growing fears of disease outbreaks and malnutrition owing to a shortage of clean water and food. A crippling food shortage has hit the three transit camps in Gunikuni, Zunga and Kushinga, as more people flock to these places.
Four people died when a Zupco bus plunged into Musavezi River along the Mhandamabwe-Shurugwi Road last Friday, after a bridge was swept away by the rains.