Raging torrent claims lives (30-11-06)

CHIREDZI - Chilonga residents fear for their lives when crossing the Runde River near Chiredzi during the rainy season. The river, about 500 meters wide, becomes a raging torrent during the rainy season and claims many lives every year. The residents say the government has done nothing to reduce the

threat of flooding.
Many residents cannot avoid using the river on a daily basis when conducting business and making a living. They either travel by boat or are forced to cross the river on foot if they cannot pay for transport. Often the boats are so worn out that passengers fear they will sink in midstream, particularly when the river is in full flood. Poor people are even more at risk when crossing the river on foot – vulnerable to attack by crocodiles and hippopotamus. The only bridge across the river is also unreliable.
Residents say the bridge was rebuilt by war veterans in 2003 without the approval of the engineers. They also did not use the proper equipment while constructing the bridge and did not lay a strong foundation. The main structure of the bridge was washed away by heavy rains in 2002.
This reporter confirmed the accusations of residents when visiting the area. The foundation is very unstable, the bridge has many cracks, and drain pipes were laid on sand and only barely covered with cement. “We tried to advise the war veterans how to construct a strong bridge using pillars, but they ordered us to shut up,” said Tawanda Tigere one of the residents.
“The bridge is so narrow that it is quickly covered by water when the river is in flood. You cannot even see the bridge. It is as if there is nothing there. So, we are forced to use boats to cross the river. The government has failed us,” said Tigere.
According to residents the bridge is used as a political weapon by the ruling party because they threatened to boycott the presidential elections if the government did not take action to reduce the threat to people crossing the bridge. – Paul Palati

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