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Africa News Fri, 14 Feb 2020

Lightning strikes 13 pupils, headman drowns

A headman drowned in Mbire, while at least 13 learners at Chitenje Secondary School in Karoi were yesterday struck and injured by lightning as heavy rains wreak havoc in different parts of the country.

Houses, livestock and property were destroyed in Chinhoyi.

This followed the death of one person in Binga on Tuesday and the extensive damage to infrastructure in the area and in Chimanimani, where 181 homes were destroyed, while two bridges were swept away.

The Department of Civil Protection Unit said it was on high alert and will continue to work with relevant authorities, including the police, Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ), education officials, relief agencies and traditional leaders to see how they can reduce the damage caused by floods and heavy rains.

The Meteorological Services Department (MSD) has forecasted scattered afternoon and evening thundershowers to continue today in all Mashonaland, Harare, Midlands and northern parts of Manicaland provinces, while the rest of the country is expected to start experiencing a decline in rainfall activity starting today.

There were widespread rains across the country on Wednesday, with considerable amounts recorded at Mukandi (94 millimetres), Sutsuku 92mm, Nyakomba 75mm, Chimhanda 67mm, Nyanga 62mm and Mutasa 56mm.

“Zimbabwe has been experiencing significant rains since February 6, and these rains persisted in most parts of the country,” said MSD yesterday. “Heavy downpours greater than 100mmm in 24 hours were recorded at a number of stations.

“The rainfall was not evenly distributed as some had localised heavy downpours, while some areas could receive much less rainfall. The significant reduction in rainfall activity is expected starting today with southern areas, including Matabeleland North, Bulawayo metropolitan southern areas of Midlands as well as Masvingo.

“The intensity of the rainfall is expected to decline as we move into Saturday and Sunday.”

Department of Civil Protection director Mr Nathan Nkomo yesterday urged people in Chimanimani, Manicaland, and Mashonaland Central to be on high alert as the ground had reached saturation levels which will result in floods.

He said in Binga, rescue operations were continuing.

“We are liaising with Petrotrade, the

only company which is running a fuel station there to ensure that supplies are in place to ensure mobility of rescue teams,” said Mr Nkomo.

“We had a successful stakeholders meeting this afternoon (yesterday) where it was agreed that focus on disaster preparedness activities should not only be focused on Binga, but Manicaland and Mashonaland Central, as the risk of flooding is high because heavy rains are still expected there until Saturday.”

In Masvingo, hundreds of schoolchildren across the province’s seven administrative districts have over the past few days failed to attend lessons after failing to cross flooded rivers.

While provincial education director Mr Zedious Chitiga could not give exact figures of affected schoolchildren, he said the development was worrisome.

Mr Chitiga said they were still waiting for reports from districts indicating the extent of the problem.

“We have noted with concern that pupils are foregoing school as they fail to cross flooded rivers in most areas and it’s a sad scenario,” he said.

Some of the flooded rivers blocking schoolchildren from learning include Mutirikwi and Pokoteke in Masvingo District, Runde and Chiredzi rivers in Chiredzi and Devure and Mungezi rivers in Gutu.

Masvingo District Civil Protection Unit chairman, Mr Roy Hove said: “The Civil Protection Unit (CPU) is on high alert for tragedies likely to emanate from the heavy rains and river flooding.

“The CPU will continue to work hand-in-glove with the police, education officials and traditional leaders in this regard.”

Acting Masvingo provincial police spokesperson, Assistant Inspector Kudakwashe Dehwa urged parents to accompany their children to school to prevent flood risks associated with crossing flooded rivers.

In Mashonaland Central, one person drowned in Mbire, while several people in five villages in Muzarabani were displaced due to the rising water levels in Hoya River.

The province has already activated its civil protection committees.

The CPU is on standby for evacuations in Mbire and Muzarabani, which are the two flood prone areas that are now at risk.

Bindura District development coordinator Mr Richard Chipfuva yesterday said a house was struck by lightning, while another collapsed in Mbire.

“The incessant rains have caused dam levels to rise, especially in low-lying areas of Mbire and Muzarabani,” he said.

“There is imminent threat to settlements downstream. A village head in Mbire, Mr Kapembere, drowned while trying to cross Hunyani River.

“One house was struck by lightning in Kanyemba and all properties were lost. Seven members of the family were not injured.”

In the same area, a house collapsed leaving three family members homeless.

Water levels in Hoya, Musengezi and Nzoubvunda rivers were reported to be rising rapidly, affecting villages in Chadereka, while some families have started moving to higher ground.

Areas like Kairezi, Chiwenga, Mutemapungu are now cut off because there is no bridge that can connect them.

“In Chadereka, five homesteads were razed to the ground and one man was injured when the house he was sleeping in collapsed,” said Mr Chipfuva. “Livestock and a granary were swept away. Most of the crops in the fields were destroyed.”

Civil protection units in Mbire and Muzarabani have stocked non-food items and require assistance with foodstuffs.

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe National Water Authority latest dam level update shows that the national dam level average has risen to 50,4 percent up from 49, 6 percent on February 6, 2020.

Source: herald.co.zw