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The BBC's Greg Barrow reports
"The floods have been unexpectedly heavy"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 9 February, 2000, 07:24 GMT
Flood disaster hits southern Africa

Road washed away Roads have been flooded in both countries

Heavy rainfall in Southern Africa is causing flooding over large areas of Mozambique and South Africa.

Mozambican government officials say tens of thousands of people have been forced to flee after their homes were destroyed by flooding in and around the capital, Maputo.

In South Africa, at least 26 people have died from the flooding in the north and north-eastern parts of the country.

The military has been called in to airlift foreign tourists cut off by floodwaters in the Kruger National Park, South Africa's biggest game reserve.

Click here for a map of the affected areas

Game rangers say there have been few casualties among the wildlife population, because most of the animals reached high ground in time.

As the floodwaters begin to recede in north and eastern South Africa, people in other areas of the country are bracing themselves for their share of the downpour.

The heaviest rains for 50 years are on their way west and are crossing the border into neighbouring Botswana.

With the lowering of water levels in some places, the damage can now be seen -- destroyed roads, homes and bridges and towns left without clean water supplies after their pumping stations were swept away.

The weather system was caused by low tropical pressure off the coast of Mozambique, which has also suffered extensive damage in some of its southern provinces.

The Mozambican authorities say the torrential rains over the past four days are the worst in four decades.

In Maputo, people living in makeshift homes in the slums around the capital are reported to have suffered the most.

Food shortages

People have been prevented from going to work in Maputo as well as in the neighbouring industrial town of Matola.

Boys in boat Some regions have been left isolated by the floodwaters
Electricity and drinking water supplies have been cut off, and both towns face food shortages.

Further north, hundreds of thousands of people are reported to have been left homeless in Gaza province.

Flooding in Sofala has made Mozambique's main north-south road impassable in several places, cutting transport links between the capital and the second city, Beira.

Helicopter rescue

In South Africa, 15 people were reported to have drowned while trying to cross a swollen river in Northern Province, which together with neighbouring Mpumalanga province saw the worst of the flooding.

Flooded home People in shack settlements suffered the most
Two further deaths were attributed to rain-soaked houses collapsing on top of their occupants.

In a dramatic rescue mission, army helicopters lifted six people to safety after they were stranded on the roofs of their homes near South Africa's border with Mozambique.

Flood waters have made many roads impassable and disrupted electricity and water supplies to large areas of the country.

Water and electricity suppliers were disrupted around Nelspruit, the provincial capital of Mpumalanga.

Although the region normally enjoys its rainy season at this time of year, the storms have been unexpectedly heavy and have caught local people unaware.

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