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Photo: Facebook / Baptista Mathununa Nhacavetho
Once again, it is only possible to cross the Montepuez river in Quissanga district, in the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado, by boat.
The bridge over the Montepuez collapsed on 27 December, as flood waters swept away the central pillars. This cut off the flow of traffic from the provincial capital, Pemba and the south of the province, to the northern districts of Muidumbe, Mueda, Nangade, Mocimboa da Praia and Palma.
When the level of the Montepuez fell, the government improvised an alternative way of crossing the river, using a metallic bridge and a causeway built on top of boulders. Pedestrians and light vehicles could cross. But this way of fording the river, known as a drift, was only viable as long as the water remained shallow.
Last week the Montepuez rose again, and the water swept over the drift. Speaking to reporters on Monday, the Minister of Public Works, Joao Machatine, said the drift was easily overwhelmed, because it had not even been completed before the river rose.
“The increase in the flow and speed of the water caused breaks in the drift, and now we have to restore them”, said the Minister. This was difficult because it is still raining in this area, and the river is rushing past at considerable speed.
For as long as there is no bridge or drift across the Montepuez, boats provided by the country’s relief agency, the National Disaster Management Institute (INGC), are the only way by which people can cross from one bank to the other.
But when the level of the river falls, the boats can no longer be used, because they run aground on sandbanks.
The interruption to normal road traffic means that supplies for the northern districts of Cabo Delgado have to be shipped up the coast. Food, medicines and fuel are sent from the port of Pemba to Mocimboa da Praia, and then by road to the other isolated districts.
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