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March 30, 2009

Floods destroy crops in southern Africa

by Sam Banda

Zambia and Namibia have been hit by floods following heavy rains which reportedly destroyed crops among others. The reports come barely a few days after another southern African country Malawi was hit by floods in the southern region which affected about 3,400 families.

Media reports say that Namibia has declared a state of emergency in flood-hit areas as waterways burst their banks in the narrow Caprivi Strip between Zambia and Botswana. About 400,000 people are said to have been affected on both sides of Namibia's border with Angola.

Data from Namibia's Hydrological Service is said to have showed river levels along the Kavango River at their highest since 1963. The official death toll in Namibia is 92 but aid workers said it would almost certainly be much higher.

The reports further said that the floods are the worst in 40 years for the two countries according to disaster officials. A Reuters report said Zambia has put its air force on standby to airlift people to safety.

"We've heard some incredible stories," Matthew Cochrane, a spokesman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said.

Cochrane further said that communities have been separated by rising water. "Crocodile attacks, hippo attacks, snake bites. These are some of the risks people face. Then there's the more mundane risks: malarial and diarrhea diseases, and just the lack of food," he said.

In Zambia things have also got out of hand with water levels in some districts higher than they had been since 1969. A road linking the rich copper nation to Zimbabwe is said to have been damaged and that the country’s Southern Province is the worst hit, with more than 20,000 households affected and 5,000 houses destroyed.

Zambia’s National Coordinator of Disaster Management has since asked people leaving n low land to move to higher lands. In January, rains in Malawi and Zambia are said to have caused flooding in Mozambique that killed 45 people and left 285,000 homeless.

The African continent is currently experiencing the rainy season which are bringing about floods. This has also threatened to increase waterborne diseases like cholera.

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