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Freak Of Weather

Flooding in Livingstone Zambia

Gill Staden, eTN  Mar 09, 2010

This past week has seen some amazing floods in Livingstone. Lodges were swamped; homes inundated with muddy water. It was a freak of weather that caused two seasonal rivers to fill at the same time. Gossip has it that a farm dam collapsed, which could not have been helped.

Near and through Livingstone, we have two seasonal rivers, which are generally quite placid, taking rain water from about 30 km away into the Zambezi River. These are the Maramba and Nansanzu Rivers.

We had been having rain for two days, but it wasn’t heavy rain, just a solid drizzle. What we didn’t realize was that all along the course of the two rivers, they had been having rain for two weeks.

On one day this week, the rivers, having collected rain water all along their lengths, filled to capacity. The Maramba, towards its mouth with the Zambezi, became a torrent. It was the highest it had been for many, many years. The water crashed into the road and rail bridges between the Victoria Falls and Livingstone. The water backed up to flood the surrounding area, which included two lodges and the crocodile farm. Fortunately, all the guests at the lodges were relocated as soon as it became clear that the river was going to rise to a dangerous level, and only one crocodile escaped - it came home the following day.

Having watched the Maramba for a while, I went to the Victoria Falls to see the effect of all this water going down the Zambezi and over the falls. I wandered through Sun International grounds to the Falls Park; it was still raining and the Sun grounds were waterlogged in places.

The first glance of the Victoria Falls was amazing. The dirt-filled water was hurtling over the Falls with such force. I was completely taken aback at the sight, although I should have expected it.

I wandered further along through the rain forest to see more, but the spray from the falls was complete; it was like walking through a fog. Although I peered through the mist, I could barely see the falls. The Knife Edge Bridge, which takes walkers from one viewing point to another, was completely clouded, and I decided that I didn’t really want to go any further and to get that wet. Although I had an umbrella, the spray comes in sideways. One needs a raincoat to protect from that sort of inundation; even then the spray gets inside any raincoat.

I returned via the footpath to see the Victoria Falls Bridge, which goes over the gorge. It, too, was edged by spray as rivulets of water crashed down the side of the gorges, the spray rising into the air.

I headed back into town wondering what was happening at the Maramba River – had it come up even more? Fortunately the spate had passed and the water was slowly going down. But it was fun while it lasted.

Flooding in Livingstone Zambia
Victoria Falls during flooding / Photo by Gill Staden, eTN

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