WHILE perennially dry dams have filled up overnight, instantly solving water problems for several city councils around the country, Cyclone Dineo has come with devastating effects, threatening the livelihoods of many Zimbabweans.
Although Cyclone Dineo, which originated in the Indian Ocean, had weakened when it passed over Mozambique, downgrading into a Tropical Cylcone in Zimbabwe, it remained a significant danger to the country’s population.
Wind speed reduced from 140 kilometres per hour to about 80 kilometres per hour, but weather experts said the rare weather phenomenon was still a threat to southern Africa as it was expected to move into South Africa by the end of the week.
In Zimbabwe Cyclone Dineo has resulted in damaging floods in the southern parts of the country, where rivers have burst, damaging property and livestock and threatening food security in the drought prone region.
Cyclone Dineo exacerbated flooding that was experienced in Matabeleland last month due to torrential rains that pounded the southern parts of Zimbabwe, with Plumtree falling victim to the first floods.
Army helicopters had to be dispatched in Tsholotsho to rescue flood victims as the Civil Protection Unit (CPU) reacted swiftly to the disaster where hundreds were displaced.
Tsholotsho, one of the low-lying areas of Zimbabwe, is prone to flooding due to its Khalahari soils that have poor run off, coupled with low elevation. It had been marked as a danger area.
“We are targeting Matabeleland South and North, particularly Tsholotsho,” CPU said in a statement.
CPU has been working with several donor agencies to provide food and temporary shelter for displaced families in Chipinge where bursting rivers have displaced hundreds of villagers.
“We are working together with development partners who are very keen on supporting us. We have dispatched materials from our partners to areas affected by floods,” said CPU.
Low lying areas like Mutare, Chiredzi and Beitbridge have received above normal rainfall that has culminated into floods.
Zimbabwe has over the years been prone to cyclones, with Cyclone Eline in 2000 killing almost 136 people and destroying an estimated 59 184 houses.
The cyclone also killed 20 000 livestock and damaged 230 dams, 538 schools, 54 clinics and 14 999 toilets. Communities have battled to recover from the cyclone, 17 years after the devastating floods.
Cylclone Eline was described as the worst cyclone in 50 years that lasted from February 9 to March 2, 2000, leaving a trail of destruction in most parts of the country.
Cyclone Dineo has reincarnated the ghost of Cyclone Eline as communities that were marooned are still in danger of loosing their livelihoods to the torrential floods.
The Meteorological Services Department (MSD) said the cyclone would only be weakened if it encounters distractions like mountainous areas.
“It is very difficult to calculate the time that it is going to stay in the country. It also depends on whether it will encounter mountain areas because it tends to weaken in such areas,” said MSD senior weather forecaster, Tich Zinyemba.
Zinyemba said although Cyclone Eline was more destructive, Cyclone Dineo could inflict serious damage to property and livelihoods, hence the need to take precaution.
“I think Cyclone Eline was more destructive because it was more into Zimbabwe, but this one is more of transcending boarders along Limpopo River. That’s not to say it’s not destructive,” said Zinyemba.
MSD said if the cyclone confined itself to Limpopo, it would remain very strong, hence more destructive.
If the cyclone moved inland, the effects could be lesser.
MSD said extreme flooding was expected in areas around Chiredzi, Chisumbanje, Chipinge and Bufallo Range due to the increase in pressure of Eastern Winds.
“We will continue to monitor its progress and issue further warnings,” Zinyemba said.
Zimbabwe was still prone to floods with 100 mm of rain expected in 24 hours during the cyclone period.
Since most of Zimbabwe’s soils are soaked, flooding is imminent, according to the MSD.
The Zimbabwe National water Authority (ZINWA) has reported that at least 100 of the country’s major dams are now full and spilling, raising the risk of flooding in many parts of the country.
This development has seen ZINWA opening floodgates at some of the dams as a way of creating space for the incoming water.
“With the good rains, the ground surface is now well soaked and any rainfall event now easily generates into run-off and now that the majority of dams are spilling, the rains being received are now being converted to excess run off.
This therefore raises the risk of flooding in downstream communities with the traditionally flood prone areas such as Muzarabani, Middle and Lower Sabi, Tsholotsho, Chikwalakwala, Malipati, Gokwe and Chiredzi being the most at risk,” ZINWA said.