Mzuzu City Council (MCC) has declared the city a disaster zone following incessant rains that resulted in floods in some parts, destroyed buildings and killed six people at the weekend.
The declaration, which will await President Peter Mutharika’s formal endorsement, was made at an emergency meeting councillors held yesterday. To date, 5 782 people have been displaced from 1 265 households while 10 were injured.
MCC chief executive officer Mcloud Kadam’manja said “the city is sitting on a time bomb” as established by a study conducted by Mzuzu University (Mzuni) in collaboration with the council.
He said: “We have been experiencing disasters for the past five consecutive years. There is also a report prepared by the academia in collaboration with the city council that Mzuzu is prone to disasters. There is also a strategic plan on the same which was developed as a response.
“That is why we called for the meeting to appreciate the situation on the ground. And we have agreed to inform authorities to consider declaring the city as disaster prone.”
Kadam’manja said declaring the city as a disaster-prone area will help the council mobilise resources for disaster victims as it transpired during the meeting that the council does not have a budget line for disasters.
“It’s a crisis, but we have managed to contain the situation with local resources,” said Kadam’manja.
Principal relief and rehabilitation officer at the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma), Fyawupi Mwafongo, said it is at the discretion of the President to declare an area disaster prone using Article 32 of the National Disaster Preparedness and Relief Act.
“If the disaster is so overwhelming to a country or an area, the President is at liberty to declare a state of disaster in that particular area,” he said.
The pre-preliminary report presented during the meeting indicates that the most affected areas are those located in wetlands of Masasa, Chibavi, Chibanja, Mchengautuba and Zolozolo where houses have collapsed.
Some of the affected families have been relocated to temporary camps at New Jerusalem Private Secondary School (Chibavi), Lwangwa Superette, Mbawemi Orphan Care Centre (Chibanja) and Napham offices (Masasa).
During the meeting, councillors observed that victims are lacking basic necessities such as food and blankets.
Chibavi East councillor Patrick George Ng’oma said distribution of relief items into these camps has also been affected due to poor road networks. Ng’oma said most of the roads are impassable due to the torrential rains that are lasting a week now. n