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Tuesday, 22 February, 2000, 11:40 GMT
Fears rise for homeless villagers
Mozambique floods
Villages have been cut off by the floods
By Southern Africa correspondent Greg Barrow

On a stretch of empty road just north of the Mozambican capital, Maputo, men stack bags of maize and sugar - food aid for those trapped by the flood waters.

This is as far as you can go by road; anything beyond here is only accessible by helicopter.

Huts stranded by Mozambique floods
There are fears the water could spread disease
The South African air force is flying relief supplies to people whose villages have become islands in a sea of muddy water, cut off by some of the heaviest floods to hit the country in 50 years.

Inside the helicopter looking down, you get some idea of the scale of these floods in southern Mozambique.

With water stretching over fields up to the horizon, on slightly higher ground, you can see people waiting for food to be dropped. Just the roofs of houses show along the water line.

In the town of Chokwe waves from flood waters lap gently by the roadside. Chokwe now resembles a remote island surrounded by an angry sea. The people are trapped and they are running out of food.

Thousands homeless

People whose homes have been swallowed by the flood water now shelter inside schools and government buildings on higher ground. There are growing fears the flood water could spread diseases such as cholera and malaria.

Joao Mango of the United Nations World Food Programme said 23,000 people were now receiving aid.

Helicopter sends relief supplies to Mozambique
The South African air force has been dropping supplies
"They've lost absolutely everything, including houses, food, blankets, the very little resources they had."

Outside the shelter, local church workers cook meals for the dispossessed - a thin soup of maize-meal and water. They were unprepared for this sort of crisis, and it could get worse.

Ian McLeod of the UN children's agency, Unicef, said there was potential for more damage from a tropical cyclone hovering over the Mozambican coastline.

"In the central provinces where the cyclone or tropical storm is just starting to hit at the moment, we really don't know," he said. "It depends on how strong the winds are and how long the rain lasts.

"I have lost my house. I've lost my belongings. I've lost my family."

Rosa Tumbo
"Further down south in the Limpopo Valley, where it's flooded at the moment, we are expecting a lot more water to come through from South Africa, from Zimbabwe, over the next couple of days.

"People who are presently seeing the waters of the Limpopo recede and are thinking of going back to their houses - if they do that in three or four or five days from now, they may be stranded once again"

All of this is bad news for those like Rosa Tumbo.

She said: "I have lost my house. I've lost my belongings. I've lost my family, and even if I do go back to my home, what will I do?"

The relief agencies here are on an emergency footing. But even if they manage to save people from the floods, the reconstruction and clean-up operation could take years.

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22 Feb 00 |  Africa
Cyclone lashes Mozambique
11 Feb 00 |  Africa
Africa's flood misery
11 Feb 00 |  Africa
African deluge set to continue
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