Mozambique Floods – 2000

Mozambique is situated on the southeastern coast of Africa. Between 1977 and 1992 it was in the grip of a violent and disastrous civil war that left, the country in ruins. In 1991 the first multi-party elections were held and life began to look up for its inhabitants. War refugees were resettled and economic reforms led to a high growth rate, averaging over 10 per cent in the late 1990s. All these positive signs came to an abrupt halt in 2000, when catastrophic flooding during February and March devastated vast swathes of the country. This was the wet season and the whole of Southern Africa was affected by heavy rainfall. But Mozambique was by far the worst, hit.

On February 9 the capital city, Maputo, was flooded and the road to Beira, Mozambique’s second city, quickly became impassable. Two days later, the huge amount of rain had totally saturated the ground and the Limpopo River burst its banks, flooding the valley, sweeping people and houses away, separating families and making thousands homeless. Little more than one week later, Cyclone Eline hit the country and five days after that, on February 27, flash floods devastated yet another region, producing 8 m (20 ft) of water that swept everything before if.

At first the rescue operation had very limited resources: a few Mozambican ships, and fewer than a dozen helicopters from neighboring countries. It was three weeks before international help arrived. Meanwhile, 45,000 people were rescued from trees and rooftops, and 113,000 fanning families were left with nothing: 1,400 sq km (540 sq mi) of agricultural land was ruined, 20,000 cattle vanished, 630 schools were closed and 42 health centers disappeared, including the second largest hospital in the country. Roads and bridges were swept away and dirty, contaminated water gave rise to outbreaks of dysentery and cholera.

When: February to March 2000

Where: Mozambique

Death toll: Approximately 800 people died and one million were displaced.

You should know: The iconic Image of the flooding was of a woman giving birth in a treetop. Sofia Pedro and her newborn daughter were rescued by the South African Air Force and flown to safety.

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