By Petronella Sibeene
The Emergency Management Unit (EMU) in the Office of the Prime Minister will employ helicopters in its rescue and food delivery mission in northern Namibia, where the worst floods in years have forced thousands of people to flee their homes.
Head of the EMU, Gabriel Kangowa, in an interview with New Era yesterday said there are some people marooned on islands and the situation might be life-threatening, hence the Government will have to airlift them to safety.
Kangowa said the flood situation in northern Namibia is worsening and critical.
In Oshana, a group of over 30 cattle herders is reported stranded in Oshitundu and Inakulu area in the Uudhiya Constituency.
Kangowa says the Oshana Regional Council has already been directed to prepare foodstuffs and other necessities to be airlifted to these herders, most likely today.
“Cattle owners are cut completely from the cattle posts as water levels rise, blocking road networks,” he added.
Heavy rains in central and northern Mozambique and neighbouring Zambia and Angola over the last month caused the Zambezi and Kunene rivers to burst their banks resulting in flooding in northern parts of the country and eastern Caprivi.
Officials estimate that thousands of people may need food and other assistance.
“People need to be taken out of these areas and it is difficult because not even 4x4s can reach where they are. Canoes can also not be used as northerners are not used to such a mode of transport, Kangowa said.
Government will have to consider airlifting people to drier areas in order to avoid loss of lives.
Kangowa described this year’s flood situation as critical.
“This year’s floods are something else. I have never seen so much water, this time it is serious and worse,” he restated.
Kangowa last week visited Ohangwena, Outapi, Oshana and Oshikango to assess the flood situation.
The Flood Situation: Cuvelai Oshanas
Guido Van Langenhove, a hydrologist in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry said yesterday heavy rains in Namibia and southern Angola caused extensive local flooding in central northern Namibia at the end of January. The levels started to subside slowly, but the main efundja (floods) coming from Angola passed the border last week resulting in higher flood levels and causing more disruption.
Large areas around Oshakati, in the Outapi area and many other populated centres are inundated. Most rural roads are cut off, and the water has also gone over and breached main gravel roads at many places.
Access to schools, medical centres and other services is cut off. This may not be a spectacular flood with raging torrents of water, sweeping away people and destroying major infrastructure, but it should be considered as a major natural disaster affecting a large part of Namibia’s population.
The Kunene River was also running low for most of January, but flow suddenly increased at the end of last month, in the same way as in the adjacent Oshanas area. This is of benefit to the hydropower generation at Ruacana where flow is adequate to run the three turbines.
In Caprivi, water levels continue to rise in the Zambezi River.
Based on the daily update on floods as provided by the ministry at Katima Mulilo, water levels have been one metre higher than normal since the beginning of the year.
A floodwave originating from southeast Angola pushed the water level up by two metres this week resulting in a 5.70-metre water level on February 20.
Such water levels according to Van Langenhove are above the normal water level of 5.30 metres experienced only in April.
He added that the floodplains in the eastern part of the Caprivi Region are becoming inaccessible.
Van Langenhove said water levels upstream, however, are subsiding and at present, there is not much rain activity in the upper catchment area, but the danger of heavy rains later in February and in March requires constant alertness.
Van Langenhove warns that areas such as Sangwali, Lianshula and Malengalenga are likely to experience extensive flooding within the next month as Kwando River bursts causing flooding at Kongola.
Although water levels in the Kavango River remained low, a floodwave from the highlands in Angola pushed the water levels by more than one metre last week. However, no critical flooding is expected in that area as for now, Van Langenhove said.
Interior of Namibia
Most of the normally dry rivers experienced floods, none being large or exceptional. No reports of flood damage were received, said Van Langenhove.
However, many large dams operated by NamWater experienced good inflows but none overflowed so far.
The OMDEL Dam in the Omaruru River near the coast got some inflow for the first time since 2000.
On Wednesday, the Hardap Dam had reached 68 percent, very near to the 70 percent mark at which NamWater will consider opening the gates to release excess floodwaters.
Lower Orange River
No major releases have been effected from the storage reservoirs in South Africa, and the river flow remains low.
At the beginning of February, a flood in the Fish River passed the confluence with the Orange River and temporarily disrupted pontoon movement at the new border post near Rosh Pinah.
Kangowa said EMU officials would next week resume regional visits for further assessment of floods in the country.