Lilongwe floods displace 176 people

Devastating floods Thursday afternoon in Lilongwe left 176 families homeless and two people feared missing in Biwi, Chipasula, Kaliyeka and Mchesi residential areas.

Both Minister of Homeland Security Nicholas Dausi and Minister of Transport and Public Works Jappie Mhango had a busy day yesterday visiting the disaster areas and consoling and assisting the victims.

The newly constructed Kawale bridge has also been affected by the floods

In his remarks, Dausi said the floods should act as a wake-up call for residents  to start adhering to the city council by-laws which bar people from settling on, or near, river banks.

“We have been telling people to stop building houses across river banks but they do not heed the advice. Here we are now with a disaster on our hands, as we are still singing the same song (warning).

“People should start listening to the city councils when told not to build houses in disaster-prone areas. The people must stick to the safe and well-designated residential areas if such disasters are to stop happening,” he stated.

The minister provided affected families with government relief aid and stressed they will be given the help they need.

The donated items, as starter packs for the families to rebuild their lives, included plastic sheets, bags of maize and kitchen utensils.

Meanwhile, Mhango expressed disappointment to note that a major bridge near Kaliyeka and two smaller bridges in Lilongwe had partly collapsed and failed to withstand the floodwater. 

He directed that contractors who had built the Kaliyeka bridge should re-build sections which had collapsed, lamenting that such poor infractures indicate shoddy works done by contractors who fail to produce expected high standards.

Lilongwe City Council chief executive officer Charles Kalemba said the council has plans to demolish all houses near river banks, to prevent such disasters recurring.

He, however, explained that the council has been restrained to enforce its by-laws by the tendency of those who secure plots on river banks disputing council orders, including by securing court injunctions.

Said Kalemba: “It is very sad that some of these victims went to court to get an injunction restricting us from stopping them. But what people have to know is that they are the ones who are suffering now; had they heeded our advice, this would not have happened.”

Among the affected individuals is William Mazoni, 70, who admitted that they could have averted the disaster had they heeded technical advice to live in safer areas.

He said his family, which had lived in Kaliyeka for 16 years, will need to relocate to a safer location. 

His story resonates with that of 32-year-old Doreen Kanyoza, a mother of three, who was planning to rebuild her house. The heavy rains soaked her 10 bags of cement.

Apart from the 176 affected households, according to Kaliyeka councillor Ward Richard Banda, two people are feared to have been washed away by the floods.

But police had not confirmed the report of the missing persons. n

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