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Floods Wreak Havoc in Southern Africa

The World Food Program says floods across Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe are wreaking havoc for tens of thousands of people caught by rising water that has washed away crops, and homes and claimed the lives of dozens of people. The U.N. food agency says that of the four southern African countries, Mozambique is the most seriously affected by flooding. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

The World Food Program says the worst flooding is in the central region of Mozambique. Persistent heavy rains in central and northern Mozambique and three neighboring countries over the last three weeks have flooded several important rivers.

World Food Program spokeswoman, Christiane Berthiaume, says the Lower Zambezi River in Mozambique, which is 800 kilometers long, has been above alert levels for nearly a week. She says the present situation is very worrisome and signs are it could get worse.

She says WFP has responded to the emergency situation by distributing pre-positioned food stocks to some of the most vulnerable people.

"We have distributed at WFP 300 tons of food to two thousand people that are in the center in Mutara," she said. "Mutara is the region which is the most affected inside the country. Since December, floods in Mozambique have destroyed nearly 5,000 houses, 100 schools, four health centers. It has displaced more than 45,000 people and killed nearly 30."

Berthiaume says the government of Mozambique has deployed the military to help evacuate people from the worst affected areas. She says many roads are cut off because of the flooding and this is hampering the delivery of relief supplies to isolated communities.

The WFP spokeswoman says heavy rains in neighboring Zambia last month filled the Cahora Bassa Dam in Mozambique's Tete Province above capacity levels. She says the outflow of the dam is likely to worsen flooding in the Zambezi River basin to levels not seen since the catastrophic floods in Mozambique of 2000 and 2001.

Berthiaume says it will not be possible to know the impact of the floods on the crops until the next harvest in April and May.

"So far, we estimate that there are 15,000 hectares that have been lost in Mozambique because of the flooding. So, the situation is preoccupying," she said. "We are concerned that it could deteriorate in Mozambique. We already face a lack of funds. We still need $100 million for the rest of the year," she said.

Berthiaume notes this is the amount needed for regular operations in Mozambique. She says an emergency appeal will be launched on behalf of the flood victims next week. The World Food Program estimates that some 285,000 people may need food assistance for the next few months.