BY BURZIL DUBE
HWANGE – The flash floods that recently swept the coal mining town of Hwange, leaving a trail of destruction, might be gone but it served as a wake-up call in terms of preparedness and prevention of such calamities.
The rains of up to 139mm triggered havoc at the colliery’s high-density suburbs of Lwendulu and Sinderella, while Hwange Power Station — the country’s largest thermal power utility was not spared after also being hit by heavy rains. The power station is a subsidiary of Zimbabwe Power Company.
Some houses in Hwange Local Board’s Empumalanga suburb were not spared with household properties damaged by incessant floods.
Despite persistent warnings by the Meteorological Services Department (MSD) concerning the looming heavy downpour in the town, few families, especially in the colliery concession area, heeded and took it upon themselves to clean-up the heavily blocked storm drains in and around their properties. Such houses were least affected by the flash floods.
“Very little was done during the previous floods; and this time around we decided to take it upon ourselves following warnings by weather experts,” said a Lwendulu resident who declined to be named in an interview with NewsDay.
Four years ago, similar flash floods were experienced in Hwange and left a trail of destruction at the colliery and surrounding areas.
When the recent heavy rains hit Hwange, the Department of Civil Protection (DCP) was also caught flat footed, despite periodical meetings on disaster preparedness.
A total of 35 families were displaced from the colliery’s two suburbs and were temporarily sheltered at the company’s guest house and community halls. At the time of writing, some had gone back to their houses, while those whose properties such as beds, wardrobes, stoves and other related gadgets were extensively damaged, are still staying at the guest house in Lwendulu suburb.
Electricity generation was severely affected which resulted in some parts of the country experiencing an increase in load shedding after 400 MW of power was lost due to flooding of the entity.
Expansion work for the power station being done by Sino Hydro was also temporarily suspended after most structures were submerged in water.
After-effects of the floods are still being felt across the country as intermittent power cuts are now the order of the day as power utility Zesa tries to reboot Hwange Power Station which has beeen on and off the national grid.
Donations such as mealie-meal and other groceries have been trickling in to the affected families while those who lost household properties are still counting their losses.
“My double bed and fridge are beyond repair as well as stationery for my three kids and I really don’t know where to start,” said another resident who identified herself as Muleya.
Senior politicians from both Zanu PF and MDC visited the area and pledged to assist the displaced families.
Zanu PF chairman for Lwendulu branch, Reeds Dube, said his party will continue to assist affected families even if they are moved from temporary shelters to their permanent homes.
“The Speaker of Parliament (Jacob Mudenda) spent close to four days in Hwange assessing the needs of the affected families so that the party comes up with more ways of assisting the flood victims.
“We were among the first to come to the aid of the Department of Civil Protection with our donations which included hundreds of kilogrammes of meat among other necessities,” said Dube.
He added that the Speaker was also appraised on the pollution of the nearby Deka River following flooding in the mining town.
Communities living along the Deka River have in the past complained about the contamination of the river through acid from the mine. The situation was recently made worse by the flash floods. Deka River is among the several rivers which flow directly into the Zambesi River.
Thulani Moyo, spokesperson for Hwange Central legislator — Fortune Daniel Molokeli, said the MDC had sourced groceries and other related material which were, however, yet to be delivered.
“Most of the sourced material is currently in Bulawayo and we are in the process of mobilising transport so that we hand them over to over the Department of Civil Protection for disbursement,” he said.
He added that the local party leadership was also seized with the matter so that they come up with a comprehensive report that will in future assist the DCP whenever a disaster of such magnitude happens.
While the flash floods have gone; it remains to be seen whether Hwange and the nation at large will again not be caught napping if such type of disaster was to recur. As for Hwange, lessons should have been learnt in 2016 when similar floods wrought severe disaster in the same high-density suburbs.