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Mozambique floods cause food crisis

00:22 Sat Jan 26 2013

Tens of thousands of Mozambicans are stranded without food and water after floods swept through the south of the country this week, sparking a large-scale humanitarian crisis.

With the displaced now living in the open and eating grasshoppers to survive, the Mozambican government and international agencies like the Red Cross are warning of a looming catastrophe.

When the floods came on Wednesday, residents of Chokwe town escaped the raging flow of the Limpopo River with what little they could carry.

The heaviest rains had stopped several days earlier, but it was already too late.

Swollen by downpours in neighbouring South Africa and Zimbabwe, the flood wave was on its way.

"No one really thought this could happen," said Sergio Chauke, who escaped with only his identity documents.

Those who could bundled into vehicles and fled the town.

"Those who did not have transport climbed onto the top of buildings," Chauke said.

Sergio and his sister are now among tens of thousands of people camped out by the roadside outside the town.

Kilometre after kilometre, people are huddling under trees have spread out their belongings to dry.

More are arriving constantly, some on foot along with their livestock. Most are women, children and the elderly.

As they wait for help to arrive, hunger is setting in.

"We are eating grasshoppers," Alice Mabunda said.

The risk of disease has skyrocketed.

Diarrhoea is already the biggest killer of children in Mozambique, and without latrines a cholera outbreak may not be far away.

A few kilometres down the road is a government camp to help flood victims.

It last operated during floods of 2000 that killed an estimated 800 people and displaced millions.

But the huge crowds waiting there for food are disappointed.

"It is three days now. We have nothing to eat, nowhere to sleep, no clothes. I left as I am," said mother-of-six Alice Mukavele.

"There is very little food," said International Red Cross official Armando Djedji.

So far the Red Cross is the only humanitarian organisation on the ground.