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The BBC's Clive Myrie
"Desperate people in a desperate situation"
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Martin Turner reports from Maputo
"The scale of the task facing aid workers is immense"
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Sunday, 27 February, 2000, 18:41 GMT
Mozambican flood victims beg for food

Families stranded on the Save River await rescue
Military helicopters have struggled through Sunday to reach thousands of people trapped by rising flood waters in Mozambique.

By early afternoon, five South African Air Force helicopters had rescued more than 1,000 people who were stranded in the Chokwe district near the Limpopo river. Many more people remain marooned.

Pilots say some people have been trapped in trees for days without food or water.

When the helicopters fly above them, people can be seen waving frantically motioning to their mouths and stomachs with their hands to show that they are hungry.

More than 13,000 people have already been driven from their homes in the Chokwe area and there were fears that 23,000 people could be on the move on Sunday in the search for higher ground in the nearby Macia region.

Survivors clung to whatever they could
Ian Macleod of UN agency Unicef said many of the people who were stranded in the Chokwe district had previously been evacuated from other flooded areas.

Water levels had risen by as much as 1.5 metres (5 feet) during Sunday morning, and flood waters were expected to continue rising following heavy rains upstream in South Africa and Zimbabwe.

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The South African helicopters have been flying almost daily for three weeks to help Mozambique cope with the worst flooding in 50 years.

Airlifts of emergency supplies to Mozambicans made homeless by the floods have had to be suspended so that the exhausted helicopter crews can carry out the rescue missions instead.

South Africa has spent more than $3m operating the five helicopters and three fixed-wing aircraft in Mozambique since the flooding began.

There's massive destruction along the Save River. There are people stranded in trees and on homes. A lot of people are getting killed

David Schaad, WFP
There had been fears that the aid budget would soon run out. But the UK's development ministry on Sunday pledged an extra $1m, which will allow the South African rescue contract to be extended by about 10 days.

United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Director Inyene Udoyen said Malawi was expected to send two helicopters to the central Save region on Sunday; it is hoped the United States will step in following a survey by disaster assessors on Saturday.

The Save River, like the Limpopo, is continuing to rise, sweeping away everything in its path. Unicef's Ian Macleod said between 5,000 and 10,000 people were stranded in the Save river valley and with just one helicopter in the area, it would take more than a week to rescue them.

Testing a child for Malaria
There are growing worries about malaria and cholera
"We're trying to get already cooked foodstuffs to them because it's going to be too long before they can be rescued, he said.

Aid workers have also warned that other rivers may flood and that the risk of disease is increasing.

As well as helping those in immediate danger, already stretched aid workers face the task of helping the estimated 200,000 Mozambicans who have lost their homes.

At least 200 people are known to have died in the flooding across southern Africa.

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25 Feb 00 |  Africa
A sad journey back home
24 Feb 00 |  Africa
Machel backs Mozambique appeal
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