Mozambique: Rains cut main North-South road

Road traffic between northern and southern Mozambique has been interrupted since Sunday – not because of further attacks by gunmen of the former rebel movement Renamo, but because torrential rains have caused the Ripembe river, in the central river of Sofala, to burst its banks.

The Ripembe lies between the small town of Muxungue and the Save river, marking the boundary between Sofala and Inhambane provinces. The Save-Muxungue stretch of the main north-south highway has come under repeated Renamo attack since June last year. As a result, vehicles have only been travelling along this 100 kilometre stretch in convoys under military escort.

Even that has become impossible. According to Arnaldo Machoe, administrator of Chibabaca district, where Muxungue is located, cited in the Beira daily “Diario de Mocambique”, the Ripembe river has swept over the main road, and the bridge over the river is under water.

“The whole area around the bridge is covered with water and the current is very strong, which does not allow vehicles to circulate”, said Machoe. “On Sunday, it was still possible to organise a military convoy, but only with trucks. Light vehicles were not allowed to pass. But on Monday there was no convoy at all, and we don’t know when traffic will be re-established”.

The result is that long queues of vehicles have built up at Muxungue and at the bridge over the Save, their drivers and passengers taken by surprise, and nobody is sure when they will be able to continue their journey.

According to a report in Wednesday’s issue of the independent newsheet “Mediafax”, a second small river, the Muaria, has also burst its banks. The waters surging over the road have damaged the tarmac surface, and have widened the two trenches that Renamo dug in the road late last year.

A “Mediafax” journalist who visited the Save bridge found there were about 2,000 bus passengers there, waiting for the waters to subside. Many have run out of both the food and the money they brought with them for the journey. In theory, passengers could sleep and eat in the nearby town of Vila Franca do Save – but the town has no banks and no cash machines. The situation is similar in Muxungue.

Traders are cashing in, by attempting to sell their goods and services at inflated prices. A small bottle of mineral water should cost no more than 20 meticais (about 66 US cents) – but thirsty passengers on the Save bridge are being forced to pay 70 meticais. The price of a can of soft drink has risen from 30 to 55 meticais. Shopkeepers in Vila Franca do Save are charging 100 meticais for anyone who wants to take a bath, and 50 meticais for charging a mobile phone.

Post published in: Africa News

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