MASVINGO - Government yesterday started evacuating 4 000 villagers downstream of Tokwe Mukorsi Dam, who are at risk of being swept away by floods caused by heavy rains.
Kudakwashe Bhasikiti, Masvingo provincial minister of State, said government through the Civil Protection Unit (CPU) and members of the Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ), were airlifting some families whose homes were marooned on Tuesday night.
“As I speak, I am on the ground here in Tokwe Mukorsi and we have started evacuating people to safe places,” Bhasikiti said.
“A helicopter from the AFZ has been airlifting some families who were marooned by the floods last night but we are not yet sure how many people are still marooned.”
Bhasikiti said government was on high alert, with rescue teams on the ground to avoid loss of lives.
Government has since dispatched over 20 vehicles and one helicopter to evacuate the villagers to Chingwizi area in Nuanetsi Ranch. The process requires about $9 million.
“We are highly prepared to save lives and we have started on a good note,” Bhasikiti said.
“Right now we are moving people to Chingwizi and the whole operation is going on well, with no loss of lives or property so far.
“We have the CPU and members of the Sub Aqua Unit stationed here to save people. So our state of preparedness is good.”
Site engineers allayed fears that the dam wall had collapsed, and urged people not to panic, saying the floods were caused by huge volumes of water that were forced to seep through the dam wall that is still under construction.
He said there was an unusual amount of rainfall received this year in the province.
Albert Muyambo, Zinwa chief executive officer, said claims that the dam wall partially collapsed was not correct.
“The reason for this is because the province received double the amount of rain it usually gets and this was not anticipated but engineers are working flat out to resolve the problem and are currently raising the level of the dam wall so that water will not spill over,” Muyambo said.
He said the province normally received 450mm of rainfall but this year it has surpassed 850mm leading to a rise in water levels in Tokwe Mukorsi Dam and flood its basins.
The floods have posed danger to people living in Ngundu, Gororo, Triangle and Nyahombe.
When completed, Tokwe-Mukosi is set to be the country’s largest inland water body with a capacity to hold 1,8 billion cubic litres of water and the dam wall will measure 89m.