Mozambique: Islanders Refuse to Evacuate

January 16, 2009 at 7:05 am Leave a comment

Despite repeated government warnings during the Zambezi valley floods of 2007 and 2008, some people have returned to live in the most dangerous and flood-prone parts of the valley – the islands in the middle of the river.

According to a report in Thursday’s issue of the independent daily “O Pais”, about 50 people , all members of an evangelical Christian sect, are refusing to leave Resende island, in Caia district, apparently for religious reasons.
Two weeks ago, officials from the country’s relief agency, the National Disasters Management Institute (INGC), warned them to leave the island because of the rise in the level of the Zambezi. At Caia town, the Zambezi on Wednesday was measured at 5.7 metres, well above the five metre flood alert level.
The inhabitants of Resende claim to know the behaviour of the river, and say they will leave in their canoes when there is a real threat of the waters overwhelming the island..
In the massive Zambezi flood of January 2008, they also refused to leave, and eventually the INGC had to use troops of UNAPROC (National Civil Protection Unit) to force them off the island.
Over 1,500 people, mostly peasants and fishermen, have been evacuated from other low lying areas of the Zambezi valley. These people all have homes in the resettlement areas set up on high land last year, but had returned to the river banks to fish or to farm.
Despite the flooding on the Zambezi, and further south on the Pungue, the INGC believes that so far there is no reason for alarm. INGC general director Joao Ribeiro described the situation in the Pungue and Zambezi basins as “medium sized floods, where rivers reach their alert levels, and flow slightly outside of their banks”.
So far this rainy season, 25 people have been swept to their deaths, mostly while trying to cross swollen rivers with strong currents. “We cannot ignore the teachings of our ancestors and challenge the force of the waters, by trying to swim across strong currents”, said Ribeiro. “The consequences are catastrophic. Once again we urge everybody to take the greatest of care in crossing rivers”.
Ribeiro did not regard the current floods as constituting a disaster. On the contrary, the heavy rains were welcome, because they would guarantee a good 2009 harvest.
Ribeiro was more worried that the high January temperatures might generate cyclones in the Indian Ocean that would strike at the Mozambican coast.

Entry filed under: Eye on Africa/World. Tags: , , , , .

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