HEAVY rains of up to 139mm pounded Hwange Town yesterday in just three hours, resulting in flash floods which damaged homes and properties including a stockpile of coal at Hwange Power Station, the country’s largest thermal power facility.
At least 70 people were affected by the floods with more than 35 in dire situation having been evacuated to temporary shelter set at Hwange Colliery Company guest house.
The rains damaged household property and a number of cars while a major retail shop in the mining town, Pick n Pay had to be temporarily closed after water flooded and submerged some of the groceries and goods in the shop.
Although both the Hwange District Civil Protection Unit chair Mr Simbarashe Kayela and Matabeleland North chair Ms Latiso Dlamini could no be reached for comment yesterday, Minister of State for Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs, Cde Richard Moyo last night told Sunday News that everything was now under control.
“Right now, I am in Hwange to assess the damage, everything is under control, we have not received any cases of injured people but families have been evacuated to safe places, the rains were strong and most rivers in the area are flooded,” he said.
Cde Moyo said the value of damaged property was still being tallied, adding that the floods did not affect operations at the power station. Sunday News also visited some of the affected areas where about 20 residents at Hwange Colliery concession were being evacuated to HCCL guest house. The most affected residents were those from the N-Section.
In Empumalanga township a few low-lying houses and some in the DRC area were also affected by the flash floods. In Sinderela another area under the Colliery concession about 15 houses were flooded resulting in household properties such as beds and stoves being submerged in water.
Residents told Sunday News that what worsened the situation was that the coal mining company has failed to address the drainage system in the area.
“This is not something new to us, every time we have heavy rains our houses get flooded before the company reacts. We continue to lose a lot of property worth thousands of dollars because of Colliery’s failure to deal with the poor drainage system. How are we expected to recover the lost and damaged property? Imagine after struggling to acquire such you lose it in a flash as a result of poor planning. Personally, I have lost a lot which includes important documents such as birth certificates for my children,” fumed one of the affected residents.
The residents also said it was not fair that Hwange Colliery had not addressed drainage problems in the areas despite increasing rentals from $70 per room per month to $230.
“This is not fair at all. We have lost a lot of property as a result of the delays by the company to address some of the concerns we have often raised such as damaged doors and leaking roofs. The time they took to respond to this emergency leaves a lot of questions, who knows maybe the damage could have been less. We are paying a lot of money to the company but it is failing to maintain its houses and this is the result of negligence. Colliery must at least compensate us for the goods we have lost noting that furniture is now beyond reach the reach of many,” said a woman who identified herself as Ms Phiri.
A businessman who operates grocery shops at Pamuzi Shopping Centre Mr Blessing Mumba said he lost goods worth thousands of dollars.
“I’m in trouble, I’m still trying to come to terms with what just happened. I have lost property worth $8 000 after my shop at Pamuzi was filled with water following the flooding. Books, soaps, electrical appliances and furniture, among other items were destroyed,” he said while he tried to salvage soap from the water.
Hwange Colliery Company spokesperson, Mrs Rugare Dhobbie said the company was assisting those affected.
“Hwange today received 139mm rainfall in three hours resulting in the drainage system being overwhelmed by flash floods. 139mm – these are heavy downpours if we are to compare with previous years usually the concession receives 50 mm or less. A total of 35 families have been affected by the heavy rains. We are doing all we can to assist the affected families in two suburbs namely Number 1 and Sinderela villages. We have started moving families to guest houses and other safe accommodation within the concession. Let me highlight that of the affected families no one was hurt and they are being moved to safety,” she said.
A member of the CPC who requested anonymity warned that the number of those who needed to be evacuated could rise as the rains continue to pour.
A worker at the power station said part of the coal stockpile was immersed in water.
“It’s not the entire coal stockpile but just a section which is not likely to affect power generation. The station has mechanisms to guard against such occurrences,” said the worker.
On Friday, The Meteorological Service Department issued a warning that heavy rains that may uproot trees and damage buildings were set to hit the country this weekend. The department warned that the rains could result in flash floods.
Meanwhile, about 30 families whose houses were swept away recently in Gokwe have received aid from the Government. Minister of State for Midlands Provincial Affairs Cde Larry Mavima said the families received temporary shelter and food aid while plans to reconstruct their houses were being looked into.
“We have given the families temporary shelter in the form of tents so that they can have somewhere to put their heads in. We have also managed to supply them with food aid. Our District Civil Protection Unit and our provincial team have since written to the national CPU who have sent assistance. They have also promised more aid which we are expecting anytime from now that is expected to go a long way in assisting the families,” said Cde Mavima.