“A special team consisting of ministry officials from various state agencies, including the disaster management and health sectors, have been formed to coordinate the efforts to mitigate the expected damage the rains will cause”, according to the Coordinator for Disaster Management in the Prime Minister’s Office Nicodemus Butondo.
The move follows the Tanzania Meteorological Agency (TMA) warnings it had issued to the Tanzanians to remain alert over the looming El Nino threat, saying the rains may continue until April, this year.
“In other regions especially in the eastern and southern zone, the rains may continue until April, this year, according to the TMA Director General, Dr Agnes Kijazi.
In 1997, El Nino rains, which were described by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation as the biggest on record in this region caught many governments off-guard and induced floods that left dozens of people dead and rendered thousands homeless.
Nicodemus Butondo told the Guardian in an exclusive interview that the government was well prepared with all the necessary resources to mitigate the expected damage of the El Nino rains will cause.
He said the warehouses in every zone countrywide were full of relief basic supplies that might be in need whenever the floods occur. He mentioned some of them as blankets, food, school uniforms, exercise books, home appliances and mattresses.
“We have all the equipment that people might need during disasters…our stores also have school materials for children”, he said.
He said in collaboration with stakeholders they have prepared all the rescue equipment for both marine and ground.
According to him, the stakeholders are the Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (Sumatra), National Service and Tanzania Red Cross Society (TRCS).
He said the National Service has already put in place temporary steel bridges and more had been ordered.
Butondo noted that focal persons have been trained and stationed at various places across the country. He said similar trainings were conducted by officials from the municipal levels.
He said village and ward disaster management committees were well organized. He called on people residing at low lands and flood-prone areas to move before the rains.
The Tanzania Meteorological Agency (TMA) warned of the possibility of El Nino rains which were expected between September and December last year. The rain season for Dar es Salaam and Coast Regions is expected to begin in March this year.
TMA Director General Dr Agnes Kijazi said the El Nino was due to an increase in ocean temperature in the tropical zone of the Pacific Ocean.
According to TMAthis could be the biggest El Nino on record experienced in East Africa since 1997. It said the rains would unleash ‘fury and destruction’ of magnitude much like occurred in 1997.
TMA has reiterated the need for relevant authorities to ensure strategic mitigation plans against the negative impacts expected
The rains, which pounded several East African countries including Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda, rendered a record 10 million people requiring emergency food aid.
Dr Kijazi warned that a repeat of the scenario was likely this year “as temperatures over the Pacific Ocean have already risen by 2 degrees centigrade”.
The 1997/98 El Nino rains, which began falling in November 1997 and lasted through March 1998, devastated most parts of Mara, Arusha, Kilimanjaro, Tanga and Shinyanga regions.
“In the country’s central and southern parts, where cereal crops of the 1998 main season were at the developing stage, crop losses to floods in low-lying areas of Iringa and Mbeya regions may be significant this time around,” warned Dr Kijazi.