THE predicted El Nino rains are here now and have started to ravage some parts of this country, destroying property, and infrastructure besides catching wananchi unawares, despite warnings that the rains were coming.
In October last year, the United Nations warned that Tanzania is among several Eastern African countries that could soon face potentially devastating floods triggered by El Nino weather patterns.
The country, already in the midst of a severe drought, will likely be hit by mudslides, crop destruction, water-borne diseases and disrupted road networks, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs cautioned then.
But, despite the warnings the rains brought misery to thousands of families in Kongwa and Kilosa districts in Dodoma and Morogoro respectively.
They were forced to seek shelter elsewhere after their homes were either swept away or flooded after heavy downpours that lasted for several hours.
In Kongwa District, Dodoma Region, heavy rains were experienced since Christmas holiday last year, resulting in floods damaging houses and infrastructure.
This resulted in the Tanzania Railway Limited cancelling all upcountry passenger train trips following severe floods caused by torrential rains in Dodoma and other regions.
Over 1,000 passengers were stranded in Dodoma before being ferried by buses to their destinations.
Meanwhile, flood victims in Kongwa have been allocated alternative areas to construct new houses.
According to the Kongwa District Commissioner, Lembris Kipuyo, the victims have been allocated land on higher grounds and that they have already started to construct houses.
Besides this, the government is said to have provided 43 tonnes of food while the Red Cross also provided the victims with mosquito nets, medicines and cooking utensils.
In Kilosa District, Morogoro Region, more than 9,338 people have been left homeless after floods hit that area.
The Morogoro Regional Commissioner, Issa Machibya, said that all those who were rendered homeless have been accommodated in 15 camps established for that purpose in the region.
The Kilosa District Executive Director, Ephraim Kalimwendo, said that the district was in need of 700 tents for the victims ahead of schools this week.
“We are in need of 700 tents but we managed to get only 76. The tents are required for shifting the victims from schools and we have planned to set up new nine camps ,” he said.
In Mtwara, rains accompanied with strong winds have destroyed properties valued at 11.9m/- in four villages, leaving 64 people homeless.
The Mtwara Rural District Executive Director, Mohamed Ngwalima, said properties destroyed were in Migomabi, Maendeleo, Chiwilo and Nitekela villages.
According to him, the rains destroyed 30 houses, forests, a classroom at Chiwilo Primary School, teachers' office and a toilet.
He added that in Nitekela Village, the rains removed roofs on six houses leaving 43 people homeless, and two people were injured by falling trees.
The floods also forced the government to suspend, for three months, the Central Railway passenger and cargo services.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Infrastructure Development, Omar Chambo, last week announced the suspension to pave way for repair work to be done on the damaged railway line.
“As I speak, the railway section between Munisagara Station in Kilosa District and Gulwe in Dodoma is impassible, with several bridges destroyed. The repair work will take at least three months,” he said.
The government, according to him, had already set aside 4bn/- for repair works although the actual costs had not been established.
These are some of the damages inflicted by El Nino rains and the confirmation by the Tanzania Meteorological Agency that the current rains pounding most parts of the country are El Nino rains and that they will prolong until March, means that the country has to be on high alert to avoid disasters.
The TMA Acting Director, Philbert Tibaijuka, was quoted as saying that the normal ‘Vuli’ seasonal rains had ended but the moderate El Nino forecast conditions will continue until March.
“The Sea Surface Temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean have been anomalously warm for several months and are projected to persist through March. This means that El Nino conditions are expected to continue across the tropical Pacific during this month,” he said.
The devastating effects of these rains are evident by the trail of destructions in some parts of the country and more could have been done to minimize damages and unnecessary loss of life and destruction of property. But, the responsible stakeholders were caught napping and the results were obvious.
It is against this background that the National Audit Office blasted the Disaster Management Department in the Prime Minister's Office for failure to take adequate precautions against floods, despite professional advice.
The Assistant Auditor-General (Value for Money Audit), Gregory Teu, was quoted as saying: “We are not demanding prevention of floods, but had everybody acted responsibly in execution of his or her duties, the impact could have been reduced.”
He added that thousands of Tanzanians were being subjected to untold suffering in Morogoro and Dodoma because there are some officials who ignored professional advice.
But, with TMA predicting more rains, it is vital that the disaster management department steps up preparatory efforts meant to minimize the effects of the floods. It will go a long way in lessening casualties if the public is educated and knows of what steps to take when flooding, mudslides or even disease outbreaks hit their areas.
It is vital for the disaster management team to carry out massive educational campaigns through media and other available channels as soon as possible and equip wananchi so that when flooding comes, they are not taken by surprise, hence they won’t panic and will be in a position to save their lives and property.
The government could save a lot of tax payer’s money and resources that are used for humanitarian aid or burial expenses if preparatory steps are taken to minimize destruction of property and loss of life when the floods strike.