From: Reuters
Published February 11, 2008 12:05 PM

Zambia, Zimbabwe place military on floods alert

LUSAKA (Reuters) - Zambia and neighbor Zimbabwe said on Monday they had placed military forces on flood alert after opening a floodgate at a key dam that is expected to force Mozambique to evacuate 100,000 people.

Munyaradzi Munodawafa, a senior Zimbabwe energy ministry official, said military forces would watch for heavy flooding on the Zambezi River after the spillway gate at the Kariba Dam was opened to ease pressure on the facility following recent heavy rains.

The dam and Zambezi river form the common border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.

"Defense forces from both countries are ready to respond to any eventuality and are monitoring the situation," Munodawafa said in Siavonga, 150 km (93 miles) south of Zambia's capital, Lusaka.

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"In case of serious flooding downstream, both governments are on full alert," he added.

The head of water resources and environmental management at the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA), Clement Mukosa, said the spillway gate would stay open to help ease pressure on the dam.

"We expect more water to (flow and) we have decided to open one floodgate ... for a longer period. This is also to avoid any possible damage to infrastructure and to safeguard the lives of people living downstream," Mukosa told journalists.

The ZRA said more gates could be opened as heavy rains continued.

Authorities in Mozambique have said they will evacuate 100,000 people due to expected flooding from the Zambezi River, which passes through the country to the Indian Ocean after flowing through Angola, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Officials said the waters of the Zambezi River were expected to flow in large volumes from Angola and Chavuma in north-western Zambia.

Zambia opened gates of the ITezhi-Tezhi Dam on the Kafue River earlier this month after its walls were also threatened by heavy rains.

In 2005, The Zambezi River Authority opened spillway gates at Kariba North Bank power station on the Zambezi River, causing severe flooding in eastern Zambia and parts of Mozambique.

Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi have been lashed by heavy rain for several weeks, causing swollen rivers to burst their banks and forcing thousands of villagers to flee flooded homes.

(Reporting By Shapi Shacinda, editing by Sami Aboudi)

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