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Witness 2000: review of the year George Alagiah
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George Alagiah on why we took notice of Mozambique’s floods
Floods montage
February
In this month:
Reformist President Khatami’s supporters won a decisive victory in Iranian elections. Indonesia’s head of the armed forces, Gen Wiranto was suspended over his conduct in East Timor.
Austria’s far-right Freedom Party gained a place in government, prompting European sanctions and in China, authorities closed 127 internet cafes.
Vodafone Airtouch won control of German mobile phone company Mannesmann for £113bn. More than half of the hostages on a hijacked plane which landed in the UK applied for asylum, sparking a political row.
Texas governor George W Bush refused a stay of execution for Betty Lou Betts, 62, despite her protestations that she had not killed her husband.
A New York jury cleared four white policeman of murdering an unarmed black street trader, inflaming racial tensions.
In the UK, Michael Portillo became shadow chancellor while a former darling of the Conservative Party, Jeffrey Archer, was expelled amid scandal.
The devolved Welsh assembly snarled at new Labour by ejecting its first minister, Alun Michael.
Direct rule from London returned to Northern Ireland amid fears for the peace process. MPs voted to lower the age of consent for gay men to 16 - but peers rejected the repeal of legislation banning the promotion of homosexuality.
The NEAR space probe entered orbit around Eros, a deep space asteroid.
Police in Osaka, Japan, banned drivers from wearing trendy platform shoes as accidents increase.
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Mozambique's floods
Mozambique’s recovery from a 16-year civil war had been an African success story. But foreign affairs correspondent George Alagiah saw it all unravel amid the appalling devastation of floods.

Read the transcript

One of the things that amazed me about Mozambique when I flew down there to report on it was the extensive nature of the catastrophe.

It wasn't just in one part of the countryside.

It wasn't just in the north.

It was all over the place. In fact, it was in the capital itself, Maputo.

I can remember on our first day, presenting the six o'clock news and the nine o'clock news (as it was then) from Maputo.

We were standing on what had been before that one of the main roads out of the capital and into the countryside - except of course the road wasn't there.

Turning around, behind where I was standing, there was just this huge ravine where the road had been.

On the opposite side of that I would look across and there was a family huddled together in front of a wall and that wall was all that was left of their house.

You could see where there had been some rooms - you could even see where they had a store and were selling fruit and vegetables.

But all of that had gone.

Overnight they had gone from a stable family with a house and some work in the form of selling for market and they had woken up to find that they had nothing at all.

Later in the trip, I went up north to a small community and you could see it from the air as we flew in.

It was like an island - of course it hadn't been an island - it had been a flood plain.

But we landed on this spot and found a community of 400 people who were completely stranded and the only way they could get help was by helicopter.

That was really what made the whole aid operation very, very difficult because, as you can imagine in a place like Mozambique, there simply aren't that many helicopters.

Some of the helicopters came in from neighbouring South Africa, including the armed forces there that played such a fantastic role.

In fact without their help and without the use of their helicopters many, many more people would have ended up dying and succumbing to those floods in Mozambique.