Flood warnings for Southern Africa, Kariba dam to be opened

JOHANNESBURG, – As heavy rains continue to pound parts of South Africa, the meteorological bureau has warned that there was a "high risk of floods" in the central and northeastern parts of the country over the next few days.

The government announced that the army was on standby as the water levels rose to dangerous levels in South Africa’s biggest river, the Orange.

The river rises in the Drakensberg Mountains in the eastern part of the country near Lesotho and flows westwards across the country and along the border with southern Namibia before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean, covering a distance of 2,200 km.

"We are expecting above-normal rains," said Cobus Olivier, a scientist at the South African Weather Services.

Vuyelwa Qinga Vika, spokeswoman for the ministry of cooperative governance and traditional affairs, said 36 people had been killed in extensive flooding, particularly in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal, parts of which have been inundated by a tributary of the Orange River.

Across northwestern South Africa, neighbouring Namibia has been on standby, watching water levels steadily rise in the Orange River, said Japhet Itenge, the head of the country’s disaster management directorate. "We are monitoring the situation and the village councils have been informed.

The Zambezi River Authority (ZRA), staffed jointly by officials from Zambia and Zimbabwe, said it would open the flood gates of the Kariba Dam, situated between northwestern Zimbabwe and southeastern Zambia, on 29 January. This could cause flooding in the region.