By Chrispin Inambao and Anna Ingwafa
Water from the overflowing Cuvelai Water System in Angola has swamped hundreds of homes at Oshakati. Many roads have been washed away, prompting President Hifikepunye Pohamba and emergency management officials to fly to the town.
Yesterday’s visit will also take the President to Ohangwena where there is a cholera outbreak. Floods deluged hundreds of homes and displaced thousands of people in northern Namibia.
The President accompanied by Gabriel Kangowa, the Acting Director of the Emergency Management Unit (EMU), a Government directorate that mitigates floods and other national disasters, flew to Oshakati where hundreds of homes are now under water.
The Head of State and EMU officials will today be flown by helicopter to assess the magnitude of the floods in the Ohangwena Region. Tomorrow, the flood assessment mission will be extended to the Oshakati and Omusati regions, the Oshana Regional Governor, Clemens Kashuupulwa, told New Era.
By yesterday, up to 600 “family units” and over a thousand people were displaced by the flooding phenomenon popularly known as efundja at the informal settlements of Okashekashe, Okandjengedi, Amunghambya, Oneshila, Evululuko and Uupindi.
A few houses in the centre of the town were also flooded, according to the Governor.
“All the roads leading to the south from Oshakati are affected including the roads leading to the north. The Endola Bridge connecting Oshakati to Endola in the Ohangwena Region was washed away,” narrated Kashuupulwa who is now in Oshikoto.
A hotel at Oneshila has also been cut-off by floodwater that by yesterday was seen streaming over the gravel road as it gushed towards the church-run Roman Catholic Hospital at Okatana. Kashuupulwa said the torrent is also flowing towards Etosha.
Floodwater was also seen rushing towards the Etango Shopping Complex. Several bridges and roads linking Oshakati to Ohangwena have been washed away. This compelled the Minister of Works, Transport and Communication, Joel Kaapanda, to visit the northern regions early this week to quantify cost implications as a result of floods.
Many businesses at Oshakati have ground to a standstill resulting in many workers such as cashiers and shop assistants temporarily losing their jobs while power to the informal settlements at Oshakati has been disconnected because of the floods.
Residents of Oshakati East and West constituencies as well as those of Okatana Constituency towards the south up to Uvudhiya Proper south of Oshana “are completely cut-off,” and food and other necessities are now being flown by helicopter to these areas.
Cattle herders are also stranded and the Oshana Regional Council has already lodged an appeal to EMU for intervention as a flood relief measure for thousands of those affected.
By yesterday afternoon, water was running towards Omatala Open Market overflowing the tarred road on the Northern side of the road.
The water level at Oneshila informal settlement was above knee-level and Namibia Defence Force members are relocating residents and their belongings to higher ground.
With the worsening flood situation, some residents of Oneshila informal settlement whose houses are completely under water are being urged to vacate their houses. Some of the residents have been taken to the Oshakati Independence Stadium and some to a new site.
The Governor’s Office at Ondjiva in Angola and the Iishana Basin Management Committee under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry have warned people that more water is still coming, according to Oshana Chief Regional Officer, Johannes Kandombo.
He made a call to all Oneshila informal settlement residents to vacate the area because the water level is too high and poses a threat to the residents.
All shops at Oneshila have been closed with only a few in Okandjengendi still operating though business has dwindled significantly as there are simply no customers.
Oshakati, Ongwediva and Oshana regional officers are also helping with the relocation.
As more and more people continue to be displaced by floods, space has run out at Oshakati Independence Stadium where more than 200 flood victims have been relocated.
Kandombo told New Era that on Wednesday the council pitched up 12 big tents at the Oshakati Independence Stadium and yesterday another two were added. “At the moment, there is no more space at the stadium,” he said.
He could not give the exact number of people affected because flood victims seem to arrive every minute.
The Ongwediva Town Council has identified a new reception area south of the Valombola Vocational Training Centre to accommodate flood victims in addition to the ones already being housed at the Ongwediva Trade Centre.
At the new centre, there are two big tents that were put up yesterday. Council is still looking for more tents because there are a lot of people with no roofs over their heads.
Most of the tents being used have been hired from individuals and an appeal has been sent to people with tents to hire them out to provide accommodation for the growing number of flood victims.
Another challenge, according to Kandombo, is space for the storage of flood victims’ belongings.
“Yesterday NDF availed one storeroom at the base, but it is already full. Now, we are appealing to individuals and companies with warehouses to assist us in this,” he said.
Oshana police and private securities are guarding the places where the flood victims are while NDF members are also assisting with the evacuation mission.
Kandombo said there is food at the moment. Government, individuals and companies are providing the food but accommodation remains “a big problem”.
He urged people affected by floods to come near the main road so that they could be assisted with transport.
Owambo is an extremely flat plain covered by white sands. It is crossed by a series of low-gradient, often parallel, south-oriented dry watercourses (oshanas), collectively called the Cuvelai, which occasionally feed the Etosha Pan (a huge salt pan) to the south of the northern regions with rainwater.