At least one person was feared dead, while 12 who had been marooned were rescued following floods in West Nicholson that also rendered a section of the Bulawayo- Beitbridge highway impassable for nearly 12 hours yesterday.
Mtshabezi River Bridge flooded yesterday
The flooding occurred after Mbembesi River, about a kilometre from West Nicholson Business Centre, burst its banks at around 5AM yesterday, cutting off traffic on the busy highway to Beitbridge and further down to South Africa.
Vehicles only started crossing the flooded portion of the highway around 4PM.
This came as the Civil Protection Unit (CPU) said two dams in Matabeleland South – Insiza Mayfair and Silalatshani were all full and spilling.
Communities living along Mzingwane River and its tributaries notably Insiza, Silalatshani, Nkankezi and others must be on the lookout as these rivers are flooded said the CPU.
The 12 had been marooned for several hours at the confluence of Mbembesi and Umzingwane rivers. They were only rescued by a helicopter which was dispatched from Bulawayo by the CPU. The helicopter crew was also tasked to search for more people who might have been in the same predicament.
In Gwanda town, a flooded Mtshabezi River also cut off traffic to and from areas such as Blanket Mine, Vumbachikwe Mine, Makwe and Kezi.
Matabeleland South police spokesperson, Inspector Philisani Ndebele said a helicopter was dispatched at midday to West Nicholson to rescue the stranded people.
“It was also going to comb the area to see whether there were no other people who were in danger of being swept away by the waters.
“That’s the information we last had but for more information you can get it from the Civil Protection Unit here in Gwanda,” said Insp Ndebele.
An update from the Gwanda District Administrator’s Office which heads the Gwanda District Civil Protection Unit (GDCPU) said:
“One person is feared dead and there are fears that he could have been washed away. Twelve people were marooned for several hours before they were eventually rescued by a helicopter dispatched from Bulawayo,” said the office in a statement.
“There was also a wash-away of the spillway at Insindi Dam which is the one which flooded Mtshabezi River. In West Nicholson vehicles started crossing around 4PM. The situation is better now. That’s the information which this office has at the moment.”
Acting Gwanda District Administrator, Mr Judge Dube warned motorists and members of the public not to attempt to cross flooded rivers or bridges.
The CPU yesterday said communities living near Mzingwane River and its tributaries as well as everyone else living near rivers must be on high alert. It said gold panners must not conduct any activities in rivers as doing so may result in loss of life.
“It is advised that no gold panning or other activity may be undertaken within or near a river even if it is not raining in that particular area; no attempt must be made to venture into flooded rivers, bridges must be used to cross such rivers; the public must desist from conducting any activity on the river downstream to spilling dams; communities with equipment such as movable water pumps downstream of major dams are urged to remove the equipment to avoid losses,” said the department.
In Gokwe South in the Midlands about 118 families were affected by floods which ravaged the province in the past week.
Of these families, about 32 in Chief Sayi’s area are now in dire need of food aid, blankets and clothing.
The Midlands provincial CPU has started compiling a list of people affected and their different needs.
The CPU provincial coordinator Mr Thompson Siziba told The Chronicle yesterday that infrastructure like bridges and dams were also destroyed.
“There is a lot of damage in Gokwe South in the Sayi area and Mangwe village leaving about 239 homes destroyed. There are 118 families that have been affected by the heavy rains and about 32 families are in need of various clothing and blankets. About 750kg of planted maize seed was destroyed and 15 tonnes of maize for food was either soaked or swept away by the rains,” he said.
Mr Siziba said 86 goats and 165 chickens were swept away by the heavy rains. He said there was less damage in towns other than the spilling of dams such as Monte Mataga in Mberengwa and Maryville in Kwekwe.
Mr Siziba said the provincial CPU was on high alert to assist people who would have been affected by the floods.
“The Provincial Civil Protection Committee and the District Civil Committee are closely monitoring the situation and are assessing all wards in Gokwe and other areas in the province,” he said.