The Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) says it is making progress in its preparation for floods and other disasters that may occur in the country.
This comes almost two weeks after severe thunderstorms wreaked havoc in some parts of the Southern, Central and Northern regions, causing floods that killed at least six people and injured several others.
In an interview yesterday, Dodma public relations officer Chipiliro Khamula said the initiatives being implemented currently, include the repositioning of relief items stocked in their three warehouses in Lilongwe, Ntcheu and Blantyre.
Khamula also said the department will soon deploy its search and rescue personnel in the country’s flood prone areas with the help of both the Malawi Police Service (MPS) as well as the Malawi Defence Force (MDF).
He said: “So far we are making tremendous progress with the preparations. Besides, as one way of lessening suffering of people, we have built safe havens under a project called Small Grants Scheme with funding from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Chinese Government that is expected to help shelter flood victims.”
Khamula added that Dodma is now developing information, education and communication (IEC) materials which will also cater for the visually impaired and boost its community-based radio early warning systems designed to raise awareness among masses in flood prone areas such as Chikwawa, Nsanje, Rumphi and Karonga.
Latest figures from Dodma suggest that all the deaths occurred in Lilongwe where the victims were washed away by the floods while 10 people were injured.
According to the statistics, 402 households and 4 001 individuals have so far been affected by heavy rains which recently caused havoc in Kaliyeka, Chipasula, Biwi, Kawale, and parts of Area 24 in the capital city.
Meanwhile, six pupils were again injured yesterday in Lilongwe after another heavy downpour accompanied by strong winds damaged houses in the areas of traditional authorities (T/As) Masumbankhunda and Kabudula.
Khamula confirmed the development saying nobody else apart from the students was injured during yesterday’s downpour.
“Since we experienced heavy rainfall two weeks ago in Lilongwe the past week has been relatively calm. What I can recall is the heavy rain and wind that has damaged school blocks at Nthang’ombe. For the exact statics I cannot tell on hand because those responsible for assessment are away in Mzuzu for the same exercise,” he said.
However unconfirmed reports indicate that some houses within the schools’ premises were also damaged by the heavy winds and rainfall.
The tragedies have not spared the Northern Region where some residents in Mzuzu City and others from Mzimba and Rumphi districts have also been rendered destitute.
On Tuesday, the storm destroyed seven houses in Katawa and Zolozolo townships in Mzuzu having blown off rooftops, leaving people with no shelter.
Mzuzu City deputy mayor Alexander Mwakikunga, who is also councillor of Katawa Ward, told The Nation yesterday that assessments are currently underway to establish the number of structures affected in the storm.
“There are people who cannot afford to recover and they need help. So we are calling on well-wishers to help in this situation. Of course as a council we will come up with a report and send to Department of Disaster Management Affairs but for the time being we are calling on well-wishers to come to the rescue of these people,” said Mwakikunga.
In a separate interview, Mzimba Police Station spokesperson Peter Botha said hailstorms have also left 17 people homeless in the villages of Chaphonya, Kaseka and Chibula in T/A’s Mzukuzuku and Mzikubola in the district.
Vice-President Saulos Chilima, who is the Minister responsible for Disaster Management Affairs, pledged government’s commitment to helping the affected victims this season when he toured victims in Lilongwe.
“We already have in our warehouses items such as mattresses, for now we are going to be deploying government resources [to victims]. Environmental degradation is the cause of such tragedies.. We will discuss how we can look at construction and development near water resources,” he said.
Apart from government, various organisations have also visited flood victims in various areas including Area 24, Kaliyeka, Kawale as well as Biwi in Lilongwe.