Africa Moyo and George Maponga
Government has mobilised Civil Protection Unit (CPU) teams which are on high alert, especially in the eastern parts of the country, amid reports of Cyclone Chalane which is reportedly building up in the Indian Ocean.
The cyclone is expected to hit parts of Manicaland next week.
President Mnangagwa yesterday said the Government had already been proactive on the looming natural disaster.
He said CPU teams had been activated to manage the impact of the cyclone in the event that it hits eastern parts of the country next week as anticipated.
There were fears the cyclone could be destructive like Cyclone Idai which hit parts of Manicaland 21 months ago.
“We hear that a cyclone similar to Idai is building up in the ocean (Indian) and it can come here so we are warning our people especially in Manicaland that is areas like Chipinge and Chimanimani and surrounding places.”
“The cyclone can hit those areas next week so we are putting our CPU teams on alert so that if it happens, we will be ready and we can move our people to higher ground,” said the President.
He bemoaned the deadly effects of cyclones, saying Zimbabwe still had fresh memories of Cyclone Idai which killed thousands of people and left over 600 locals unaccounted for.
Idai ravaged infrastructure such as schools, clinics, roads and bridges and derailed Government’s plans to grow the economy as funds for key projects had to be diverted to mitigate effects of the disaster.
Few Indian Ocean cyclones get as far as Zimbabwe, but Chalane is on a course for Beira, so Zimbabwean officials are getting ready.
AccuWeather senior meteorologist Mr Jason Nicholls tweeted yesterday that the tropical cyclone may strike north-east Madagascar on Saturday or Sunday and possibly move towards Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
Department of Civil Protection (DCP) director Mr Nathan Nkomo told The Herald yesterday that there was an Emergency Services sub-committee meeting to plan for any cyclone.
“We are prepared. Remember, before we develop a contingency plan, it requires funding and this funding was approved by Cabinet in November,” said Mr Nkomo.
“But as for tropical Cyclone Chalane, we met today as the Emergency Services cub-committee of the National Civil Protection Committee.
“The Meteorological Services Department has indicated that it is monitoring developments in the eastern parts of Mozambique hourly and from 31 December to the 1 January, they will continue to monitor whether the cyclone will affect Zimbabwe or not.”
Mr Nkomo said the social media had helped spread the message about the potential cyclone in the provinces, although their structures were on the ground to raise awareness without causing pandemonium.
Representatives from the Public Service and Social Welfare Ministry and the Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Ministry were part of yesterday’s meeting to plan for food and shelter provision and the rescue of marooned people.
Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) officials also attended as they will be responsible for monitoring river levels.
Mr Nkomo said they agreed to come up with a priority plan, adding that there was need for the identification of institutions that would be used to house any people displaced by the cyclone or needing emergency shelter.
“The institutions should be within reach and technically they should be boarding schools given their infrastructure,” he said.
Traditional leaders have been engaged to raise awareness in their areas, prepare people for evacuation should the need arise, while those taking medication, for instance, should have their tablets at hand.
In terms of transport, the DCP will discuss the logistics with ZUPCO in mind to ensure the movement of people is done with dignity.
Should the situation deteriorate, any mode of transport will be used.
Chimanimani East legislator, Cde Joshua Sacco said awareness campaigns had started while the Chimanimani District Civil Protection Unit had an emergency meeting yesterday to chart the way forward.
He said he was raising awareness about the potential cyclone on his Facebook page, but was unaware at this stage, of the path the cyclone would take.
“We have started awareness campaigns and this afternoon (yesterday) the Chimanimani District Civil Protection Unit met to discuss modalities on preparedness and I the central Government will come in to assist.
“But it is only after the cyclone hits Mozambique that we will start considering evacuations. At this stage, we have not started evacuations because the cyclone may change path and go south or north.”
Meanwhile President Mnangagwa warned on the continued threat of Covid-19, and implored Zimbabweans against complacency in the face of a resurgence of cases.
He urged citizens to observe precautionary measures and tame the second wave of the novel virus that continues to ravage neighbouring countries.
The president said this in Chivi while commissioning the Chombwe Piped Water Scheme.
He reminded Zimbabweans of the lurking danger of Covid-19 as cases of the disease continue to spike with the world battling a second wave.
President Mnangagwa expressed dismay that cases of the novel virus were beginning to spike and urged citizens to make sure they washed their hands and practised social distancing, especially during the current festive season.
“We still have Covid-19. The disease is still amongst us and our neighbors around us like South Africa cases of the virus have started shooting up from around 1 000 to 2 000 cases up to 10 000 daily,” said President Mnangagwa.
“The same situation is obtaining in Mozambique and Botswana and in our country, the number of cases has started going up again.”
Those who thought Covid-19 did not pose a threat locally were fooling themselves because the disease could spread rapidly and decimate the population.
President Mnangagwa reminded Zimbabweans that Covid-19 affected everyone irrespective of social status hence the need to follow laid down precautions.