The Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate yesterday recommended that a state of disaster be declared in the country’s southern provinces where one person was killed, while hundreds were marooned by flooded rivers that swept away homes and animals. The fatality was recorded in Bikita owing to a landslide, while the biggest number of those marooned was at Lundi High School on the border of Chivi and Mwenezi districts where 300 pupils, mostly girls, were left stranded yesterday after Runde River burst its banks and flooded dormitories.
Homesteads have been destroyed in various areas, notably in Umguza, where about 100 homesteads were affected in Chivi, Bulilima and Mberengwa.
This came as over 20 villagers in Shashe Resettlement area in Mashava and Madyangove Communal Lands in Chivi North were left homeless after Shashe and Musavezi rivers burst their banks and swept away their homes early yesterday morning.
The rivers burst their banks following heavy rains upstream that caused Muzhwi Dam to spill. Nine people were yesterday morning rescued by the police sub-aqua unit after they were marooned along Shashe River following the spilling of the dam.
Three others —a man, his wife and their child — were rescued by the Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ) from an island where they were trapped by the surging floods. Two other people were reported to be still stuck on the island by last night after they refused to leave their homes for unknown reasons.
Communities living between Filabusi and Mbondweni areas in Insiza South Constituency in Matabeleland South have been cut off from each other after a bridge in Kalna was swept away by floods last Thursday.
A bridge on Nkankezi River along Mbalabala-Zvishavane Road was washed away by a deluge from a failed dam, while in Mutoko, Mashonaland East, roofs of four classroom blocks were blown off at Chipfiko School.
The Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate said in a statement issued through the Meteorological Services Department (MSD) that in view of the destruction caused by the floods, a disaster was looming in the affected provinces.
“In view of the looming disaster, the Ministry recommends a state of emergency/disaster in the said provinces,” it said.
“The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education should urgently assess the situation in the areas affected, where possible suspend classes until the rivers subside.”
The ministry urged parents and the police to accompany children at major crossing points along rivers and encouraged parents to ensure children were accompanied to school by adults.
“The heaviest falls recorded were in Masvingo, Matabeleland South, southern districts of the Midlands as well as in Manicaland,” said the ministry. “These culminated in large (in some cases record breaking) rainfall.
“Mindful that we recently had Tropical Dineo which brought in a lot of rain, last (Sunday) night’s rains have compounded the flooding situation in the southern half of the country.
The district Civil Protection Unit team in Mwenezi led by district administrator Ms Rosemary Chingwe was closely monitoring the situation at Lundi Mission where some of the students reportedly became hysterical after their hostels were flooded.
Ms Chingwe said they had since raised alarm with the Air Force of Zimbabwe.
“The situation at the school is desperate because all the affected 270 girls and some teachers are staying in a church which is too small to accommodate all of them,” she said. “Some of the students are getting hysterical.’’
“We do not know whether the water level in Runde River will continue to rise because there are 23 people, apart from the students, on high ground who are completely surrounded by water, which is now threatening them as the river level continues to rise.’’
Masvingo provincial Civil Protection Unit chair and provincial administrator Mr Fungai Mbetsa yesterday said they were closely monitoring the situation following floods that affected people in Chivi, Mashava, Bikita and Mwenezi districts.
He appealed to donor organisations and other well-wishers to assist the flood victims with tents for temporary shelter and food.
When The Herald visited some of the affected families in Shashe and Chivi North yesterday, most of them said they had been adversely affected by the floods.
“We were asleep early this morning (Monday) when we just found ourselves sleeping in water after our houses were flooded when Shashe River burst its banks,” said Mrs Moddy Mutomba of Magwizi Farm in Shashe.
“We managed to collect a few belongings and escaped through windows to higher ground.’’
Addressing journalists at a press conference in Harare last night, Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Saviour Kasukuwere called on people to be on high alert and avoid taking risks, as more rivers and dams continued to overflow.
He said most southern parts of the country namely Masvingo, Matabeleland South, Manicaland and some parts of Midlands were still receiving heavy downpours in excess of 100mm a day.
“A number of communities have been marooned and more are likely to be marooned as the rainfall is expected to be sustained for the rest of the season,” said Minister Kasukuwere.
Insiza South parliamentarian, Cde Malaki Nkomo, said yesterday that people in his area were now travelling for 200 kilometres via West Nicholson to access an area which is only 30km away because of the destroyed bridge at Kalna
Speaking on the same destroyed bridge, Insiza North Member of Parliament, Cde Andrew Langa said; “We have mobilised members of the community in the area to assist a team from the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development to clear a courseway as an alternative route for vehicles.”
The Meteorological Services Department said Rupike in Masvingo South recording 223mm on Sunday, Bikita Agricultural Office had 169mm, Zaka 149mm, Serima Mission 78mm and Masvingo city 63mm.
In Matabeleland South, Esigodini recorded 75mm and Filabusi had 74mm, while Zvishavane and Mvuma in the Midlands province recorded 84mm and 54mm, respectively.
Manicaland province’s Ngungunyana (Chipinge) recorded 126mm, Chipinge 105mm, Chimanimani DA Office 100mm, Chisengu 96mm, Buhera 46mm and Mutare 47mm.
In Mashonaland East, Chivhu recorded 63mm, while Karoi in Mashonaland West recorded 77mm.
The department said the rains would continue.
According to the last update from the Department of Civil Protection, at least 117 people have since died since the beginning of the rainy season in October last year.