The known death toll from the heavy rains and high winds that have struck Mozambique since the start of the 2016/2017 rainy season on Oct 1 stands at 44, and around 80,000 people have been directly affected.

Speaking to reporters, at the end of the first meeting this year of the Council of Ministers (Cabinet), the government spokesperson, Deputy Health Minister Mouzinho Saide, said that the storms have destroyed 8,162 houses and damaged a further 13,543 suffered damage.

In January alone, the storms in the southern provinces of Maputo, Gaza and Inhambane, and the central province of Nampula, affected 18,630 people, Saide said. They completely destroyed 66 houses and damaged 3,372.

The Council of Ministers also appointed Miguel Matabel as the new chairperson of the board of directors of the publicly owned port and rail company, CFM.

Matabel takes over from Victor Pedro Gomes who was last month appointed Deputy Governor of the Bank of Mozambique.

Matabel was formerly Chairperson of the Executive Board of the state insurance company, EMOSE, a position he had held for about a year.

Matabel is no stranger to CFM. Indeed, this is the company where he has worked for most of his professional, rising to become a member of the CFM board.

Meanwhile, Mozambique’s largest river, the Zambezi, burst its banks on Monday in the Sena administrative post, in the central province of Sofala, reports Tuesday’s issue of the Maputo daily Noticias.

Farmland was inundated, but is not yet clear whether crops have been lost. The administrator of Caia district, Joao Saize, said the situation is not yet a matter of concern. Nonetheless, the district authorities are surveying the public and private facilities affected by the flooding.

Further downstream, in Marromeu district, the Zambezi on Monday surpassed the flood alert level of five metres and is continuing to rise.

In Muchanga district, also in Sofala, the level of the Save river has continued to rise. According to the district administrator, Tome Jose, the area of farmland affected by the flood has risen to 1,461 hectares.

The number of schools flooded in the district rose on Monday to 21, out of a total of 45. This means that 7,014 pupils were not able to attend classes on the first day of the 2017 school year.

Muchanga town is isolated and seven access roads in the district are impassable.

In the neighbouring district of Chibabava, traffic along the main north-south highway (EN1) has been restricted since Thursday, because the torrential rains have opened a deep crater n the road, alongside the Ripembe river.

Tuesday’s issue of the National Hydrological Bulletin, issued by the National Directorate of Water Resources, reported an improvement in the basin of the Buzi river, also in Sofala. The road between Buzi town and Guara-Guara has been reopened to traffic. But ferry services across the Buzi, between Guara-Guara and Bandua, remain suspended. The Pungoe river, at the Mafambisse sugar plantation, remains above alert level, but is stabilizing.

There is still no relief for the residents of the Greater Maputo Metropolitan Area, who have been facing a severe water shortage for the past fortnight. The heavy rains experienced elsewhere in the country, and in Maputo city, had little or no impact on the Umbeluzi river, the source of Maputo’s drinking water.

The water for Maputo and Matola cities, and Boane district is stored in the reservoir at the Pequenos Libombos dam, which feeds the Umbeluzi, and the reservoir remains at critically low levels.

On Monday the reservoir was only13.9 per cent full. With little sign of rain in the upper Umbeluzi basin, the current rationing of water in Maputo could continue for months.

The Maputo Regional Water Company (AdeM) is pumping water to Maputo, Matola and Boane neighbourhoods on alternate days. That is, a neighbourhood that receives water on Tuesday will not receive it on Wednesday.