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Zimbabwe Issues Flood Warning as Rains Sweep Southern Africa

Jan. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Zimbabwe’s meteorological department and Civil Protection Unit issued flood warnings for low-lying areas, saying heavy rains and already saturated soils could prove dangerous.

Several rivers in southern Zimbabwe are already flooding after the country received its highest rainfall in three decades, Civil Protection Unit director Madzudzo Pawadyira said today.

“While it is not yet an emergency, we strongly urge people living in low-lying areas to move to higher ground,” Pawadyira said by phone from the capital, Harare.

In neighboring South Africa, floods have hit nine provinces since mid-December, claiming at least 40 lives and displacing more than 6,000 people. Another 13 people have been killed in Mozambique, the state-owned Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique reported between Jan. 12 and today. Crops have been damaged across the region.

Pawadyira said his Civil Protection Unit was on “High Alert” and had warned authorities that it may require urgent assistance in the event of flooding.

In South Africa, Agri SA, a farmers’ organization, says it is “far too early” to calculate damage caused by the floods that have drowned crops.

“While the floods are subsiding, the weather bureau has predicted more rain in the coming days, so it may be a while before we can calculate numbers,” Agri economist Dawie Maree said by phone from the capital, Pretoria, today. “Very tentative and early” assessments of farm losses could amount to more than a billion rand ($145 million), he said.

Southern Africa’s main farming season for summer crops like corn, soy and sunflower falls between November and April.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Latham in Durban at blatham@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin in Johannesburg at asguazzin@bloomberg.net.

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