Maputo seeks aid to rescue new flood victims

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The Independent Online

Riot police are being used to evacuate people trapped by flooding in Mozambique, where hundreds have again taken to trees to survive raging waters.

Riot police are being used to evacuate people trapped by flooding in Mozambique, where hundreds have again taken to trees to survive raging waters.

At least 41 people have died, up to 77,000 are homeless and some 400,000 have been affected by torrential summer rains.

Flooding in this region has also left 15,000 people homeless in eastern Zambia and 60,000 in Malawi, both inland from the cyclonic east African coast.

It is a year since freak floods last devastated Mozambique. Those floods, further south, killed more than 700 and left half a million homeless.

This week, the President, Joaquim Chissano, visited flooded areas in the central provinces of Zambezia, Tete, Manica and Sofala. State radio reported that hundreds of people were stranded in tree tops awaiting rescue in the vast Zambezi Valley, which has been flooding since January.

The road from the port of Beira to Zimbabwe had to be closed. It reopened on Thursday to let fuel trucks through, but parts of the road are still under water. Among the worst hit towns are those on the banks of the Zambezi river which is nearly two metres above critical level.

One reason riot police are being used to remove people is that many are unwilling to leave, fearing that they may lose what they leave behind.

Mozambique has launched an appeal for $30m (£20m) in aid. Germany pledged about $500,000 on Thursday. Two helicopters hired in South Africa with financial help from Britain have been flying aid to cut-off areas.

But Leonardo Simao, Mozambique's Foreign Minister, said it was a struggle to distribute aid, especially where heavy rains have washed away roads and bridges.

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