FLOODS IN MASASI DISTRICT

Extract from a letter from Sr. Dr. Birgitta Schnell, OSB, of May, 1979, from St. Benedict’s Hospital, Ndanda, Masasi District, Mtwara Regopm (translated from German)

Never in my life have I seen so much rain as in the last few months. In many places lakes have appeared. Where there were streams, rivers now gush forth; where there was dry land, streams flow everywhere. On Easter Monday in Ndanda 5.4 inches of rain fell between lunch and supper in three separate downpours. The entire pathway from our house to the hospital was a river, through which one had to wade. And on that evening there was an accident. The ground in this area is sand and upon it lies our new tarmac road (*) At one point not far from Ndanda the sand beneath this new highway was washed away. It all began in Holy Week. Each day, a bit more of the road foundations was washed away by the deluge, while above them the tarmac held firm, so that nothing was visible from above, only from the sides. On this account a barrier was set up. But on the Monday the rain was so severe that for some twenty yards three quarters of the width of the road were undermined. Somebody chose that very moment to remove the barrier and got safely across in his car, but he was followed by a truck carrying twenty people, which was less fortunate. The tarmac surface caved in and the truck fell sideways into a cavity some fifteen feet deep. It was difficult in the rain and darkness to extract the injured from the hole and many of the injuries were severe. All the casualties were brought to the hospital and all three doctors and the entire supporting staff were hard at it for three hours. All survived except two unborn children, who died.

Meantime, a diversion was constructed, but it led over a stream by a small bridge, which was too small and weak for heavy traffic. A thirty ton truck with ten wheels actually attempted it. As the bridge is so narrow, the railings and posts along one side have already been smashed. Now another way round has been built in another spot over pipes jammed together with sand, but within an hour the rain had destroyed everything.

Now the gap has been filled in again. But the rain is back once more. Not far away, a mile and a half from here, there have been more than 63 inches of rain since November, 1978. Here in Ndanda the figure is a little lower.

(*) This is the new partly finished highway from Mtwara to Songea, an important trunk road for opening up the south of the country. The rain washed away crops and crippled communications throughout the south.

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