- Title: ZAMBIA: Flood disaster declared as rains rains lash region
- Date: 23rd January 2008
- Summary: (SOUNDBITE) (Tonga) VILLAGER, JUDITH HAPUNDA, SAYING: "We cannot desert our villages. It will not help to leave our homeland and go somewhere, not even knowing when we will come back."
- Embargoed: 7th February 2008 12:00
- Location: Zambia
- Country: Zambia
- Topics: Disasters / Accidents / Natural catastrophes,Weather
- Reuters ID: LVADHRFNBJWQAWREV1M9MOLNXTEM
- Story Text: Zambia has called for international assistance and declared the floods sweeping through the southern African region a national disaster. About 45 people have been killed while crops, roads and other infrastructure have been damaged.
Zambia has declared a national disaster after floods swept through the southern African nation and several neighbouring countries, killing at least 45 people and destroying roads, bridges, crops and livestock.
Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi have been lashed by heavy rains for several weeks, causing swollen rivers to burst their banks and forcing thousands of villagers to flee flooded homes.
Panicked residents have drowned or been killed by crocodiles as they attempted to cross rivers for higher ground.
"We cannot desert our villages. It will not help to leave our homeland and go somewhere, not even knowing when we will come back," said Judith Hapunda, a resident of Monze village.
With no sign of a let-up in the rainy weather, there are growing fears the flooding could worsen in the coming weeks and devastate the largely agricultural-based economies of the region in the middle of the critical summer growing season.
"We have no food. Our children are not attending school. Let those who we hear are giving food find us," said Tryson Muntanga, another resident of Monze.
Heavy downpours are common in southern Africa in the rainy season, which runs generally from November to April, but the relentless rain is unusual and has caught officials off guard.
"The maize which was supposed to be harvested in November has been swept away and up to now you can only see some stalks surrounded by water," added the chief of the village of Sinazongwe.
Zambia's government has appealed for 13 million US dollar in emergency funds from Western donors to cope with the crisis.
Authorities have closed schools, converting them into shelters for those displaced. Some refugees are living in tents provided by the government and relief agencies.
The government is evacuating people from areas initially deemed safe but now considered dangerous. U.N. agencies have warned the flooding there could be worse than in 2000-2001, when 700 people died and another half a million became refugees.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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