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Heavy floods destroy homes at Jao Flats

AERIAL VIEW: Part of Jao Flats

Several families have been rescued and evacuated from their collapsing mud huts in Jao flats this week following weeks of flash floods in the area.

North West District Commissioner, Keolopile Leipego, and the district’s disaster management team distributed tents in Jao yesterday and moved some families to stay in with those whose houses are still standing.

“The mud huts are collapsing because the water is getting through from the ground. The situation does not look good so some of them have been given tents as temporary shelter,” explained Leipego.

The situation in Jao is said to be a disaster waiting to happen as, besides the continued rainfall which is expected until end of next month, the Okavango delta is expected to fill up by the same month.

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The Jao island is situated just at the bottom of the Okavango delta and sits between meandering water streams.

“The assessment is still ongoing so that people can be assisted accordingly. The aim is to help all those in need of it before the arrival of the floods, Leipego stated.

Despite the looming danger, Jao residents maintain relocation is not an option.

One of the village leaders, Tsongokikwa Mweze, explained that the coming of the floods from the neighbouring Angolan high plains is not much of a worry for them as the water always throws a lifeline to the community that solely depends on the water source.

“Jao is an island, so even when the water comes it follows the usual streams. We stay in higher lands so the flood that is taking place right now is due to the rainfall and not the river,” Mweze explained further.

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NOT BOTHERED: Mweze

The 59-year-old added that for them life becomes more easier when the river fills up. “We don’t have cars in Jao, our only mode of transport are boats, even when we want firewood we have to paddle canoes or get into boat to get them. To get out of the village you need to get into a boat to reach the riverbank in Seronga boat station, so as you can see, water is our source of life.”

Even for the government officials to reach the place, they mostly have to fly in a helicopter and tourists usually fly in as well to see the marvel that is Jao flats.

Mweze maintained that the wet season is the most beautiful in Jao with a beautiful view both from air and ground. “Our home is heaven on earth and we cannot trade it for anything. We are used to this kind of life.”

Okavango delta forms part of Cubango-Okavango river basin, a transboundary basin with a network of river systems transversing three SADC countries; Angola, Namibia and Botswana. The three countries have since signed this agreement on the use of the water basin.

This year all these countries, just like the rest of the region, have been receiving above normal rainfall.

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