Southern Africa flooding continues

Monday 24th Jan 2011 by theWeather Club

It seems that the heavy rainfalls that have been a feature of 2010 are continuing into 2011, with southern Africa also having to deal with the devastating effects of excessive water. The death toll from South Africa's floods has continued to rise, following weeks of heavy rains that began in December. Seventy people have died and more than 8,000 families have been forced to leave their homes. Flimsy houses in the country's poverty-stricken townships, where drainage systems are often inadequate, are particularly vulnerable to the deluge. The country has been forced to declare eight of its nine provinces as disaster areas. Government minister Sicelo Shiceka said the flood damage was estimated at $51m (£32 million).

Mozambique and Namibia, which have already been hit, remain on ‘flood alert’ as they are expecting further floods. At least 10 people have died in floods in Mozambique and more than 10,000 people have been evacuated from their homes. The problem is that some of the biggest rivers in the region, including the Okavango river and the giant Zambezi, are at about twice their normal levels due to the heavy December rain. Relief workers fear a repeat of the kind of disaster that struck Mozambique in 2000, when massive floods killed 800 people. Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe have also been affected by heavy rains, says Elizabeth Byrs of the UN's Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The UN is warning that there is an increased risk of cholera, which is endemic in some countries. Meteorologists lay the blame for southern Africa's floods on a natural cycle called La Nina, part of the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which has also been linked to recent flooding in Australia and the Philippines, as well as droughts in Argentina.