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Thu Apr 17 23:27:17 SAST 2014

Rooftop births, ruin and diarrhoea in Mozambique floods

Sapa-AFP | 28 January, 2013 07:33
Residents on rooftops trying to evade flood waters in Chokwe, Mozambique.
Image by: FERHAT MOMAD

Now that the water is receding, residents affected by flooding in Mozambique are starting to repair the damage, looking for good news amid reports of rooftop births and diarrhoea, and cholera lurking in the shadows.

The flooding from the Limpopo river, which began on Wednesday, killed around 40 people and forced more than 100,000 others to flee.

Amid the catastrophe, two babies were born on roofs where their mothers had taken refuge in the southern village of Guija.

"We helped one woman give birth on the roof of a clinic and another on top of a house when the water came," Guija's district health director Antonio Assede told AFP.

"One of the babies is four-day-old Rofino, who appears healthy at her mother's breast."

Olalia Machava, an aunt who assisted in the birth, added: "We had climbed to the top of the house when she started to have pains.

"A nurse helped her. The next day in the afternoon they came in boats to take her to hospital."

The mud-filled hospital in Guija is empty, with all the furniture and equipment drying outside, while a nurse distributes painkillers to the sick and ensures the injured are airlifted to hospitals outside the area.

Local medical staff have already treated around 70 cases of diarrhoea and are keeping an eye out for cholera and other waterborne diseases.

"The children are beginning to get sick with diarrhoea because of the dirty water they are drinking. Their parents too," Guija nurse Lourdes Machava told AFP.

Children in the village said they have had no drinking water nor food since Wednesday.

Apart from air transport, which is reserved for urgent cases, the only way to access the community of roughly 7,000 residents is by boat.

Local officials estimate that Guija will remain isolated for at least three months, the time it will take to rebuild the roads and bridges swept away by the Limpopo waters.

In the neighbouring town of Chokwe, the 9,000 residents who stayed behind -- out of a population of 60,000 -- began clean-up efforts, laying out to dry the possessions they were able to salvage.

Others walked through the streets drunk, having helped themselves to alcohol in flood-damaged stores in a town in urgent need of clean water and food.

With relief efforts focused on camps located around 30 kilometres (20 miles) away, some locals said they were struggling to get their hands on emergency supplies.

A bereaved father recalled how on Wednesday the flood waters swept his five-year-old daughter from his arms as they tried to escape to higher ground.

"The water was up to my neck. I was carrying her. The water took her," Jose Nhanve told AFP.

He said he spent two days scouring the edges of the floodwaters for Eldinha and making enquiries with the authorities, without success.

Four bodies were found in Chokwe, whose flood-ravaged streets were also littered with rotting animal carcasses.

According to a toll from the United Nations on Friday, the severe flooding killed at least 36 people, most in the southern province of Gaza.

The floods, which have also hit neighbouring South Africa and Zimbabwe, are the result of days of torrential rains this month that swelled the river.

The UN children's agency UNICEF said Sunday that the number of people forced to flee their homes in the Limpopo valley had reached 108,000.

About 23,000 families have sought shelter in camps in Gaza, and the UN World Food Programme has begun feeding some 75,000 flood-affected people, according to the United Nations.

While the river has started to recede in Chokwe and Guija, the situation remains serious in the partly inundated coastal tourist city of Xai-Xai.

Some 45,000 people were thought to be at risk there from the deluge, Rita Almeida, a spokeswoman for Mozambique's Disaster Relief Management Institute, told AFP.

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Thu Apr 17 23:27:17 SAST 2014 ::