Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
THE Civil Protection Unit (CPU) has activated the disaster response structures to deal with rain-related catastrophes as the rainy season begins while Cabinet will today deliberate on a disaster management plan to guide the country in addressing calamities.
Normal to above normal rainfall is expected in the 2020/21 rainy season with the Meteorological Services Department warning of heavy rains in excess of up 50 millimetres within 24 hours in some parts of the country since Sunday.
MSD observed the rains will be coupled with violent thunderstorms and localised downpours especially in Matabeleland districts of Beitbridge, Gwanda, Mangwe Bulilima, Matobo, Tsholotsho, Bubi and Umguza among other areas.
Heavy rains have in the past resulted in property destruction with CPU saying infrastructure damage caused by rains could run into billions of dollars and rehabilitation projects backlog to the early 2000s.
In the 2016/17 rainy season, when the country last received significant rains, more than 100 people died while hundreds of families were displaced and public infrastructure including dams and roads was damaged.
It was worse last year when Cyclone Idai hit Manicaland province killing more than 300 people, displacing thousands.
The district is yet to recover from the extensive rains, although Government, private sector and developmental partners chipped in to assist victims.
CPU director Nathan Nkomo said structures that were used in the management of Covid-19 across the country have been activated to also attend to possible calamities caused by the rains.
Mr Nkomo said the CPU was expecting fatalities and property destruction as a result of heavy rains as MSD has already projected.
He said since the start of the rainy season, two people have died after being struck by lightning in Gokwe, Midlands province.
“Remember the drought disaster was running together with the Covid-19 pandemic. The same structures which are dealing with the drought and the Covid-19 pandemic are the same structures which we have activated now, ready for the normal to above normal rainfalls as predicted by the MSD. This is the time to manage the two together,” he said.
“A lot of people will be left homeless, a lot of people will be displaced but all those issues will be dealt with within the auspices of Covid-19. That is why when we did our planning recently, we wanted people to understand the context in which any calamities may befall our environment as a result of heavy rain falls and the response to be done within Covid-19 context.”
Mr Nkomo said Cabinet is today expected to deliberate on the department’s contingency plan which will guide the nation as it prepares for the rain caused disasters.
“More important from that contingency draft, I’m calling it a contingency draft because it has to sail through a Cabinet system before it becomes official. It is one of the items that are expected to be deliberated I’m sure on Tuesday (today)” said Mr Nkomo.
“Part of the components of the draft speaks about a robust early warning system. An early warning system which speaks to climatological risks which we must also deal with. So, whenever we will be handling issues to do with floods during the rainy season, we will also be cognisant of the existence of the current Covid-19 pandemic.”
He said the emergency plan should address concerns that the public have previously raised against the CPU, blaming it for not being prepared to address disasters.
Mr Nkomo said heavy rains are likely to increase waterborne disease affecting both humans and animals.
He said communities have to be seriously involved in the new disaster plan.
“Once Cabinet approves the plan, we will roll out the plan to our communities. Remember the constitution talks about three tiers of Government but we strongly feel there is the fourth tier which is the community and the community is led by its leaders who are the chiefs and village heads.
“We are going to harness that critical mass of 25 096 village heads in this country for two purposes. One for information dissemination and secondly even managing the disasters remember those guys will be the first to respond to any case,” he said.
Mr Nkomo said disaster response teams such as the military and police sub aqua unit should be ready to save the marooned or those affected by floods.
He said even adjacent districts development coordinators have also been told to plan together to avoid a situation where an officer who was supposed to help victims was also marooned in Midlands last year. — @nqotshili