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Society | Environment - Nature

Malawi experts warn of severe flush floods

afrol News / The Chronicle, 10 April - Geological experts are warning that severe flush floods might hit the southern Malawian city of Zomba "anytime" and cause "massive damage" to both lives of people and property and have since asked government to take control measures to minimise the loss that might be caused. Similar flush floods, locally known as napolo, occurred in 1945, when several persons died and property was damaged.

A senior geologist at Chancellor College - the constituent college of the University of Malawi - who carried out a survey on Zomba Mountain in souterhn Malawi said the flush floods may erupt on the mountain near the old parliament building and meander through the Gynkhana Club to Zomba Market and Depot down to the villages on the foot of the mountain.

The Malawian geologist, who refused to be named, said flush floods always occur after 50 years and there is likelihood that the flush floods may occur this year or any year ahead.

"We did the consultancy work on the flush floods. We gave our findings and recommendations to the government. It is up to them to act or not," the geologist in an interview with the independent weekly 'The Chronicle'.

He said unlike in 1945, when there were few people and few property in the town of Zomba, the flush floods would cause massive damage now should it occur because of high population in Malawi's old capital city. Zomba was the capital in colonial times and in the first decade of independence, but was replaced by the more central city of Lilongwe further north in 1975.

The geologist said that the Malawian government now must put in place measures that would minimise damage which include relocating houses and property that are on the danger zone.

In 1945, flush floods hit Zomba and memories of the damage are still fresh in people's mind as evidenced by songs and poems composed, many years after the floods occurred.

Similar floods occurred in Phalombe - a village some 80 kilometres south-east of Zomba - in 1991, where many people lost their lives and property due to the sudden fast running water which erupted from Mulanje Mountain.

Phalombe Boma, which is near where the flush floods occurred, has since been relocated to Migowi, about 20 kilometres away, on recommendation from the Geological Department which said similar floods were likely to occur any time, even before the 50-year-cycle.

Local people believe that flush floods are caused by a mythical snake which comes out of the mountain with drum beating and ululations, while geologists hold that flush floods are caused by precipitation and land degradation, among other factors.

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