Lesotho Red Cross responds to severe weather conditions

تم النشر: 28 يناير 2008 0:00 CET

Mark South

In the wake of a freak tornado, the Lesotho Red Cross are stocking up on tents in case of a repeat strike.The twister which struck the country in early January is just one example of the extreme weather Southern Africa has been experiencing over the past few weeks, in many cases the worst on record.

Torrential rains and related heavy flooding have been the major challenges with Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe all suffering inundations which have forced thousands from their homes.

Lesotho was different in that it was wind rather than rain which caused problems. “We are very lucky because we haven’t had floods, so it makes it much easier to get out to the villages to help people,” explained Teboho Kitlehi, secretary General of the Lesotho Red Cross.

“We did experience extremely heavy rain and hail storms, but it was the tornado and high winds which have done the majority of the damage.”

Accustomed to storms during the rainy season at the start of the year, the Lesotho Red Cross already had stocks of aid in place, but were caught out by the unprecedented nature of the high winds, hail and the tornado that occurred.

“This has been some of the worst weather we’ve ever experienced at this time of year, houses and property have been destroyed but fortunately, of those affected so far, we have had only two fatalities,” said Kitlehi. “I think we were more or less prepared, but we didn’t have enough tents for people made homeless by the storms so we’re appealing to acquire them.”

According to an initial assessment carried out jointly by the Lesotho Red Cross and Disaster Management Authority, Mafeteng District in the south of the country was the hardest hit, with 4,000 people affected and 189 houses completely destroyed.

The most pressing issues now are to provide shelter for those whose houses have been damaged or destroyed and to ensure those affected receive enough food.

Many who lost their homes have been taken in by friends, neighbours and relatives, said Kitlehi who was confident victims were now out of immediate danger.

But more storms are forecast in the coming weeks and, having been taken by surprise once, the Director General is determined not to be caught out again.

“We’re going to be distributing food parcels, hygiene packs and blankets in the coming week, and we need to increase the number of tents in stock because we just don’t know what the next few weeks will bring,” he said.

“We knew the bad weather was coming before, we just didn’t realize how bad it would be – at the moment everything seems to be under control but we have to put emergency supplies in place so we’re ready and prepared if the extreme weather returns.”