ZIMBABWE has activated its disaster response teams as it closely monitors a developing Cyclone Freddy amid incessant rains that continue to pound most parts of the country while authorities are concerned with citizens crossing flooded rivers.
Since last week most parts of the country have been receiving excessive rains. Despite warnings from authorities that members of the public must not cross flooded rivers, videos circulating on social media indicate that some individuals and even motorists ignore the messages and take risks by attempting to cross flooded rivers and overflow bridges.
A 63-year-old man is seen in a video being swept away while trying to walk across a river near Maphisa in Matobo while, in another recording, some donkeys and a cart they were drawing were swept away by a flooded Phekiwe River near Bulawayo. Also, a school bus that was transporting pupils nearly plunged into a flooded river.
Weather experts have said the country is likely to be hit by Cyclone Freddy, which is developing in the Indian Ocean.
Meteorological Service Department (MSD) head of forecast, Mr James Ngoma, said the department was closely monitoring the developing weather event and is likely to have an informed decision tomorrow.
“We hope to see what happens when it reaches Madagascar. Hopefully by Tuesday the picture may be clearer,” said Mr Ngoma.
The Civil Protection Unit (CPU) has since activated its disaster response teams in readiness to deal with any potential weather hazards on communities.
In an interview, CPU director Mr Nathan Nkomo said the department is following on the weather advisory on the developing Cyclone Freddy.
“On the developing Cyclone Freddy I’m sure the MSD is monitoring it. The last time we checked it was still miles away from the Mozambican channel. We will continue to monitor it as it reaches the Mozambican channel and see its trajectory,” said Mr Nkomo.
He said CPU disaster teams were activated in October at the announcement that the country is likely to receive normal to above-normal rainfall.
“We are making frantic efforts to make sure that we are alert for any eventualities. You might be aware of a case where someone was marooned in Matobo, Matabeleland South, and was retrieved by the sub aqua unit. We can even deploy a helicopter where necessary,” he said.
Mr Nkomo said the CPU was not working alone in attending to disasters as this requires a multi-sectoral approach.
He said the CPU is, however, concerned with members of the public engaging in dangerous behaviours like crossing flooded rivers.
Mr Nkomo said annually the department conducts campaigns educating the public against crossing flooded rivers but it seems their message is falling on deaf ears.
“No one should dice with death crossing flooded rivers whether they are going to beer halls, school or church or wherever,” he said.7
“I have seen quite a number of videos of people dicing with death through crossing flooded rivers but our message has been clear that the public should wait until the water subsidies.
“However, we are receiving arrogant responses on a yearly basis. People cross flooded rivers year in year out and the results are always the same, they get swept away,” said Mr Nkomo.
He said State funds are needlessly lost when resources are deployed to recover individuals who would have made uncalculated and risky decisions.
The Sadc Climate Services yesterday also warned that the cyclone might affect seven countries in the region.
“Intense tropical Cyclone Freddy is evolving in the mid-Indian Ocean and continues to track westwards. On this trajectory the system is approaching the Mascarenes and Madagascar. It may influence weather over Rodrigues and over Mauritius early next week with heavy rains. There is high risk that the cyclone might impact Madagascar by mid-next week,” reads the statement.
It said heavy rains are expected in the region due to low pressure prevailing in Botswana.
Since last Thursday, most parts of the country have been receiving heavy rains resulting in some national dams filling up and spilling.
More rains are expected today and in some areas the rains have resulted in the destruction of property.