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Cyclone update: MAIN NORTH-SOUTH HIGHWAY REMAINS CUT

MAIN NORTH-SOUTH HIGHWAY REMAINS CUT

Maputo, 23 Jan (AIM) – The break in Mozambique’s main north-south highway,
about 100 kilometres north of Maputo, could take a further three days to
repair, according to the National Road Administration (ANE).

Part of the road was washed away on Saturday morning by the flood waters of
the Incomati river at the 3rd February village in Manhica district. The
Incomati was swollen by the torrential rains brought to southern Mozambique,
Swaziland and eastern South Africa by tropical depression “Dando” last week.

Initially the break in the road was only a couple of metres long, but as the
waters rushed through the gap, more and more of the road was washed away. By
Sunday, 60 metres of the road had ceased to exist. ANE judges that this gap
is too wide for the use of a metallic bridge.

Instead heavy machinery has been brought to 3rd February and the ANE is
trying to close the gap with rocks. Once that has been done, the area will
be paved and traffic can resume. But that may take until Wednesday or
Thursday.

“We were mobilized to attend to a break of two metres in the road”, ANE
general manager Cecilio Grachane told reporters. “But when we arrived we
found that the opening was already 15 metres long. We began to work and the
break widened, because the current was very strong”.

The waters eroded the road in both directions, and by Sunday the ANE was
facing a crater 60 metres long and three metres deep. “We are trying to fill
in this hole so that traffic between the south and centre of the country can
be re-established”.

Hundreds of vehicles were stranded on both sides of the road. While private
cars could simply turn back, matters were more complicated for passengers in
buses and minibuses. Small boats were made available by the country’s relief
agency, the National Disaster Management Institute (INGC), to ferry these
passengers across the gap. 450 people were moved this way on Saturday and
900 on Sunday. Thus many passengers were obliged to sleep in their vehicles.

Stranded passengers interviewed by the independent television station STV
complained that they had received no assistance – the authorities had not
provided them with food, drinking water or health care.

Prime Minister Aires Aly overflew the Incomati valley on Sunday morning, and
visited the stranded travelers and the ANE brigades. The Incomati flood had
also swamped Magude district and the town of Xinavane. Ali said he had seen
people who took refuge from the waters by climbing to the top of their
houses.

The INGC says it used all means available to inform people of the break in
the road. But the message clearly did not get through, since throughout the
weekend more vehicles arrived at 3rd February, their drivers unaware that
the road was flooded.

Ali urged people to let the ANE work and avoid using the highway. He pointed
out that this is the middle of the rainy season and people should remain on
the alert “to minimize the effect of disasters”.

Long distance transport from Maputo to the rest of the country has come to a
standstill, with enormous losses for transport operators. At the Maputo long
distance bus terminal, passengers who had come from outside the capital, and
intended to travel on to the central and northern provinces, opted to sleep
in the buses.

One alternative is the Limpopo line, the railway from Maputo to Zimbabwe,
which has not been damaged by the flood. The ports and rail company, CFM,
announced on Saturday that it would run extra trains from Maputo to Chokwe,
in Gaza province, thus allowing some people to bypass the flooded area.

A bright spot is that on Sunday the publicly-owned telecommunications
company, TDM, announced that it had repaired the fibre-optic cable which the
Incomati flood had damaged. Thus fixed and mobile phone communications
between Maputo and the rest of the country were re-established.

Meanwhile a category four cyclone, “Funso” has brought torrential rains and
high winds to the coasts of the central provinces of Zambezia and Sofala.

According to a report in Monday’s issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”, the
worst damage occurred in the Zambezia district of Nicoadala where 66 houses
collapsed, killing two people and seriously injuring three others. Four
houses were destroyed in the provincial capital, Quelimane, and one in the
town of Chinde, at the mouth of the Zambezi river.

The storm has swamped Quelimane, causing flooding in almost all the city’s
neighbourhoods. Many roads are impassable, and in some cases the swirling
waters have made it impossible to move from one Quelimane neighbourhood to
the next. The city’s drainage system is very poor – partly because people
have been allowed to build houses on top of drainage channels.

Low lying neighbourhoods in the Sofala provincial capital, Beira, have also
been flooded. In neighbourhoods such as Vaz, Macurungo, Goto, Manga and
Muchatazina, some people tried to sleep on top of tables, while others
sought refuge with relatives living in safer areas.

In Chibabava district, the areas of Mangunde and Chinhica have been
completely isolated by the rains. Parts of Marromeu and Nhamatanda districts
are also isolated, but the poor state of the roads has made it difficult to
obtain a full picture of the situation across Sofala.

Funso on Sunday was still in the Mozambique Channel. The centre of the storm
was located about 90 kilometres east of Quelimane, moving slowly in a
south-easterly direction.

Thus the storm is continuing to move over open water. Cyclones intensify
over water, and so Funso is likely to strengthen, posing a serious threat to
shipping in the Mozambique Channel.

The course predicted by the US Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Centre would
bring Fonso towards the southern Mozambican coast by Friday.
(AIM)

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