One person died after he was swept away following floods that hit Matabeleland North’s Binga district, while 34 families were rescued.
The Civil Protection Unit (CPU) swiftly deployed rescue teams to evacuate marooned villagers between Monday evening and yesterday. Rescue efforts continued yesterday concentrated on areas that could not be accessed on Monday.
CPU director Mr Nathan Nkomo last night said reports from the ground were that one person died in Nsungwale area under Chief Sinakoma after he was swept away while 34 families were evacuated.
“From the latest report that I got from the District Government Coordinator there is one fatality, an old man who got swept away. That is the only fatality I know of. But as of now, those who were marooned have since been rescued,” said Mr Nkomo.
“Initially when they (team on the ground) did their rapid assessment, they had estimated the figure to be 100 but when he spoke to me, he told me that the exact number is 34. That is the number of affected families. But we still think it might be 100 because they have not done a thorough assessment.”
Women assess the damage caused by floods which hit Binga District recently
He said two Air Force of Zimbabwe helicopters that were sent to the ground could not operate due to unfriendly weather which forced them to be temporarily grounded in Gokwe North.
Mr Nkomo said the grounding of the helicopters has not stopped rescue efforts as water levels had already subsidised yesterday.
He said after calling for help, organisations such as the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) immediately responded.
“There is a lorry full of kitchen equipment, tents and blankets which will be given to every affected family because when one’s house is swept away, they lose everything including food, utensils, medication and many more. So, we continue to appeal that even the health sector can also assist with medication for those who are chronically ill so that they can continue with their medication,” he said.
Mr Nkomo said the CPU will remain alert as it makes efforts to get everyone to safety.
Binga North MDC-Alliance MP Mr Prince Madubeko Sibanda recognised Government’s efforts to rescue marooned villagers. He said it was unfortunate that a life had been lost.
Mr Sibanda said the focus should now shift to ensuring that every victim is assisted to start afresh.
“If everyone has been rescued from wherever they were marooned then we need assistance in terms of temporary shelter until such time that they find something permanent. We also want to see help in terms of food because these people had their food washed away. We also anticipate help in terms of warm clothes because these guys have been exposed to rain,” said Mr Sibanda.
He said although Binga has previously experienced flooding, the area has not suffered the magnitude of the prevailing situation.
Meteorological Service Department Principal Meteorologist Mr James Ngoma said it was unfortunate that Binga district, despite receiving the lowest rainfall in Matabeleland region, experienced flooding.
“Despite receiving the least amount of rainfall Binga experienced flash floods because it is in a flood plain which is more of a low-lying area. It is where the sources of water along areas such as Gokwe, Lupane as well as Hwange going to Zambezi Valley pass through. Therefore, if heavy rains occur either on the Zambian side or the Zimbabwean side Binga will still be prone to flash floods as a low-lying area,” said Mr Ngoma.
In a statement yesterday, the acting Secretary for the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works, Mr Christopher Shumba said it is possible that more people were affected considering the general settlement patterns in Binga District.
Mr Shumba said the emergency services sub-committee had mobilised two helicopters and the ZRP Sub-Aqua Unit stationed at Fairbridge in Bulawayo to assist the affected families.
He said the District Civil Protection Committee (DCPC) was directed to intensify their assessment until they ascertain the actual number of people affected and those in need of assistance.
The Civil Protection Department is also dispatching 100 tents and blankets to Binga.
“Short term measures for consideration include the following; quick evacuation of the affected families to areas of safety and mobilisation of non-food and food items considering the level of destruction mostly of their pole and dagga houses and stored food. The DCPC is to continuously monitor the general health and welfare of the people for possible outbreaks of waterborne related diseases,” Mr Shumba said.
He said the long-term measures include possible relocation of affected families backed by a robust rural housing delivery programme to address the issues of sub-standard materials used.
Others are capacitation of all civil protection organisations such as the Air Force of Zimbabwe, Sub-Aqua Unit and Department of Civil Protection with all-weather equipment to enable them to timeously respond to the vagaries of climate change. Acting Binga District Development Coordinator, Mr Farai Marinyane, who also chairs the Binga District Civil Protection Committee, said the rescue operation is continuing.
He said the floods have since subsided but indicated that the DCPC has a lot of work to do in dealing with the aftermath of the flash floods.
Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs Minister, Richard Moyo said he has since dispatched a team to assess the situation with the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works, saying efforts were being made to assist the affected people to reach safer zones. -state media/Chronicle