By Thupeyo Muleya
ZIMBABWE and South African border authorities were yesterday forced to stop both vehicular and human traffic after the bridge at the Beitbridge Border Post was flooded on Sunday night. The border was only open to travellers after 3am when the waters subsided.
The torrential rains also claimed the lives of three children aged between four and nine years when the houses they were sleeping in collapsed. Authorities at the border post were forced to stop traffic after the flooded Limpopo River left the New Limpopo Bridge inaccessible.
The bridge links Zimbabwe and South Africa. The bridge was temporarily closed for three hours at midnight on Sunday. It was only reopened at around 3am when the water had subsided. Border authorities from both countries had to harmonise traffic control systems to ensure the safety of motorists.
They also temporarily suspended movement of heavy vehicles over the bridge. The Old Limpopo Bridge was safe for pedestrians though the situation was under close monitoring by the authorities.
The children’s deaths bring to five the number of people who have died in Beitbridge District due to torrential rains that started last week. Two people drowned, one along Bubi River and another one in a pond in the town. Forty-two more people were stranded at Chituripasi Village 10, under Chief Elsh Matibe’s area.
Their huts were destroyed by heavy rains that hit the area on Saturday and Sunday. Authorities had also dispatched an Air Force of Zimbabwe helicopter to assist stranded villagers yesterday afternoon. Beitbridge Civil Protection Unit chairman Mr Simon Muleya said the situation was terrible.
He said the AFZ helicopter would continue to assess the situation around the district. Mr Muleya said they had secured 30 tents for temporary shelter for the villagers. He said some people had been marooned at the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority camp on Sunday night.
They were, however, rescued by police on Monday morning. The camp houses close to 80 people. The floods have also hit the communities living near the banks of the Limpopo River, especially at the River Ranch Diamond Mine.
He said two of the deceased children, a five-year-old and his nine-year-old colleague died at Mawale Village, some 20km east of Beitbridge town. The bedroom hut, which had four occupants, collapsed due to the incessant rains. He said the third victim, a four-year-old child died in the same manner at Tshituripasi.
“The situation is bad. At the moment we are looking at ways of assisting the victims as a matter of urgency. We have 19 adults and 24 children who have sought refuge at Tshituripasi Police Post after their 14 homes were destroyed by the heavy rains.
“It is also difficult to go there by road since the link roads have been badly damaged while some bridges have been swept away.”
Meanwhile, the Meteorological Services Department yesterday said the heavy rains would subside starting tomorrow up to Saturday.
“During this period, most of the rains should be confined mainly to the Mashonaland Provinces, Harare, and the North of Manicaland.”
The Met Dept, however, said the rains would increase from Sunday onwards. The Herald