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Sunday, 27 February, 2000, 16:14 GMT
Mugabe slammed over flood effort

The cyclone also exacerbated fuel shortages, blocking supplies

Zimbabwe's main opposition party has accused President Robert Mugabe of undermining efforts to tackle the country's worst flooding in living memory.

At least 62 people have died in Zimbabwe, some 250,000 been left homeless, and many crops been washed away in the wake of Cyclone Eline.

The duty of the army is first and foremost to help the people of Zimbabwe
MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai
Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), said flood relief efforts were being weakened because of the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

He said a third of the Zimbabwean army - and much of its equipment - were currently deployed in DR Congo.

"It's unfortunate that the government has sent so many troops, planes and helicopters to the aid of a foreign government when the duty of the army is first and foremost to help the people of Zimbabwe," Mr Tsvangirai said.

State of emergency

Some air force helicopters have been deployed to rescue people stranded on roofs, in trees and on high ground, but civil protection committees have called for more aircraft to drop food supplies.

Tsvangirai Morgan Tsvangirai: Third of army in DR Congo
President Mugabe, who has declared a state of emergency in the worst-affected areas in the east and south, is already under political pressure as a result of the country's economic decline.

He visited some of the affected areas on Saturday, promising government help.

But his Local Government Minister John Nkomo got a rough ride when he visited Mtetengwe in the south of the country, with villagers accusing the government of neglecting them during the flooding.

One villager said: "We are like lost sheep because there is no help at all that we are getting at the moment."

Rising toll

Officials say the death toll from the flooding is likely to rise as more information becomes available across the country - which has seen bridges and roads destroyed, and power and telephone lines cut.

President Mugabe President Mugabe: Under pressure over country's economic crisis
Police said on Sunday that at least 33 people had been killed when their bus was swept off a bridge into the Muzdi river near the north-eastern Nyamapanda border with Mozambique.

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said the tragedy occurred on Friday after the bus driver initially refused to cross the flooded bridge, but was encouraged to try a crossing by passengers who saw another bus traverse it safely.

Eighteen people survived the accident, but another 20 are still believed to be missing.

Fuel crisis

The high waters are also exacerbating the country's fuel crisis.

Reserves are critically low and the floods have made it impossible to transport replacement fuel through South Africa and Mozambique.

President Mugabe has taken personal control of the situation following the resignation last Friday of the Transport and Energy Minister, Enos Chikowore.

The state media in Harare quoted President Mugabe as saying his government was entering urgent talks with another country to ensure adequate long-term reserves were available in future.

The fuel shortage has crippled many aspects of Zimbabwe's economy for the past three months.

Even before the flooding, President Mugabe was under pressure following the government's defeat in a referendum on a new constitution which would have consolidated his power.

Correspondents say the result was widely seen as a vote of no-confidence and a victory for the MDC, which led opposition to the draft constitution.

The country has record rates of unemployment and inflation.

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See also:
23 Feb 00 |  Africa
Mugabe 'told to stand down'
15 Feb 00 |  Africa
Profile: Zimbabwe's strongman Mugabe
27 Feb 00 |  Africa
Race to rescue flood survivors
15 Feb 00 |  Africa
A heady day in Harare

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