Food shortage fears after floods

CAIA, Mozambique - Thousands of flood victims are pouring into crowded refugee camps in central Mozambique, straining relief efforts and prompting fears of a food crisis, authorities said yesterday.

CAIA, Mozambique - Thousands of flood victims are pouring into crowded refugee camps in central Mozambique, straining relief efforts and prompting fears of a food crisis, authorities said yesterday.

Weeks of heavy rains have triggered flash floods along the Zambezi river and its tributaries, washing away homes, bridges, livestock and crops in four central provinces.

About 170000 people have been displaced and at least 45 have died because of the flooding, the worst to hit the former Portuguese colony since the 2000-01 floods that killed 700 people and drove 500000 from their homes.

Aid workers were battling yesterday to supply food and fresh water to a ballooning refugee population, with an estimated 2000 people each day streaming into temporary accommodation centres set up by the Red Cross and other agencies.

"We still have some food, but it's not enough," said Joao Ribeiro, deputy director of Mozambique's National Institute for Disaster Management.

Ribeiro said sanitary conditions in the shelters were deteriorating because of a lack of toilets and poor hygiene, raising fears of cholera and dysentery among the estimated 50000 people living in the makeshift camps.

But Mozambique's President Armando Guebuza said the relief effort was proceeding smoothly.

"It's not a declaration on the international front that can help change the situation," Guebuza said in Caia, the Mozambican town that has become a command centre for the relief effort. - Reuters

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