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Thousands displaced after Tropical Cyclone Eloise hits Mozambique | Weather News

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Nearly 7,000 people forced from their homes and more than 130,000 hectares of crops destroyed by torrential downpours and floods.

Heavy rains and flooding have forced thousands to flee their homes in Mozambique after Tropical Cyclone Eloise brought wind gusts of up to 150 kilometres per hour (kph).

Eloise struck Mozambique’s Sofala coastal province on Saturday morning before weakening and heading inland to dump rain on Zimbabwe, eSwatini – formerly known as Swaziland – and South Africa.

On Sunday, Mozambique’s National Institute for Disaster Risk Management and Reduction (INGD) said investigations had shown Eloise had displaced 6,859 people. The region’s Buzi district had been particularly hard hit with severe winds.

“Families are in urgent need of essential supplies like food, water, blankets and shelter,” Marcia Penicela, project manager at ActionAid Mozambique, said on Sunday.

“With high floodwaters and power lines down in Buzi, the challenge will now be reaching people most in need,” she added.

Eloise ruined 136,755 hectares of crops, destroyed nine schools and damaged about 17 other schools and 11 hospitals, according to INGD.

It had completely destroyed 1,069 houses, partially destroyed 3,343 and flooded another 1,500, the agency said.

After weakening and being downgraded to a tropical storm, Eloise moved on from Zimbabwe to dump heavy rain on some areas of South Africa’s Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal provinces, authorities there said.

“So far the highest amount that we’ve recorded is somewhere between 115-128 mm of rainfall in Limpopo, especially in the northeast,” Puseletso Mofokeng, a senior forecaster at the South African Weather Service, told Reuters news agency.

Floods had hit the lowveld of Limpopo and Mpumalanga, and winds had blown the roofs of houses and knocked down trees, blocking roads, he said.

Certain parts of the affected provinces were likely to see another 100mm of rain tonight and more expected rain on Monday, Mofokeng said.

Heavy rains were also recorded in eastern and southeastern parts of Zimbabwe on Saturday, filling most dams and flooding some rivers. At least three people were swept away when they tried to cross flooded rivers in eastern Zimbabwe, authorities said.



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Colombia launches ‘elite force’ to target rebels, drug gangs | Crime News

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The new unit consisting of 7,000 personnel will be deployed to border with Venezuela and to drug trafficking hotspots.

Colombia on Friday launched a new military unit to target coca crops and cocaine production, illicit mining, and the illegal armed groups who use such activities for financial gain.

Colombia’s decision to launch the unit, known as CONAT in its Spanish initials, came while the country was preparing to restart aerial spraying of coca crops with the herbicide glyphosate – possibly starting at the end of March – depending on the government receiving approval from the Constitutional Court.

“The unit was born to hit, repress, and break down the structures of drug trafficking and transnational threats linked to illegal mining, the trafficking of wildlife and people, and – of course – any transnational form of terrorism,” President Ivan Duque said at a military base in Tolemaida.

Colombia, considered the world’s leading producer of cocaine, suspended aerial spraying of glyphosate in 2015 following warnings by the World Health Organization that the chemical was potentially damaging to health and the environment.

The new unit will be deployed to zones such as the Catatumbo region on the border with Venezuela, as well as the provinces of Cauca and Putamayo [Courtesy Colombian Presidency/Handout via Reuters]

The new unit, consisting of 7,000 personnel, will be deployed to zones such as the Catatumbo region on the border with Venezuela, as well as the provinces of Cauca and Putamayo, Defence Minister Diego Molano said.

Colombia has faced constant pressure from the United States, a major destination for cocaine, to reduce the size of crops of coca, the drug’s chief ingredient.

During 2019, coca crops covered some 154,000 hectares (380,000 acres) in Colombia, with a potential to produce 1,137 tonnes of cocaine, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. There are no figures available for 2020.

The armed forces eradicated 321,240 acres (130,000 hectares) of coca last year, according to the government, and seized 500 tonnes of cocaine.

Drug trafficking has long driven Colombia’s internal armed conflict, which has left more than 260,000 dead and millions displaced.

During his address, surrounded by helicopters, tanks and hundreds of soldiers, Duque also said the force would pursue “without qualms” members of the ELN – the last active rebel group in Colombia, as well as drug gangs and ex-FARC rebels who have abandoned the terms of a 2016 peace deal, he said.

“Soldiers, it is a morally necessary, morally correct battle … Let’s go for the defence of Colombia!” he said.

Surrounded by helicopters, tanks and hundreds of soldiers, President Ivan Duque also said the force would pursue ‘without qualms’ members of the ELN and ex-FARC rebels [Courtesy Colombian Presidency/Handout via Reuters]

When he first announced the creation of the elite force earlier this month, he said many of its targets “are protected in Venezuela” though he did not mention direct military action in the neighbouring country. On Friday, Duque did not mention Venezuela.

But his statement prompted Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to pledge to “respond forcefully”.

From Caracas, he said the country’s security forces should “clean the barrels of our rifles to answer them at any level we need to answer if Ivan Duque dares violate the sovereignty of Venezuela.”

Colombia and dozens of other countries recognise opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president, prompting Venezuela to break off diplomatic ties with its neighbour in 2019.

Colombia has repeatedly accused Venezuela of providing refuge to leftist armed groups, a charge Caracas has denied.



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