MAPUTO, Mozambique — With heavy rains forecast and Mozambique's main highways still impassable, the British navy anchored a floating helipad Thursday at the mouth of the swollen Save River to speed food aid to flood victims.
From the deck of the Ft. George, five British helicopters will deliver food to 45,000 hungry flood victims near the central town of Machanga, said Lindsey Davies, a spokeswoman for the World Food Program, a U.N. agency.
With heavy rains forecast in central and northern Mozambique during the next five days, international aid agencies were scrambling for different ways to rush food to flood survivors, but their reliance on aircraft had not diminished.
"The unpredictable weather that's hampering our road access will continue to make helicopters a vital source of aid for those who need it," Davies said. She said there were renewed fears of flooding because the Zambezi and Buzi rivers in central Mozambique were reaching a "critical level."
Monthlong flooding in central and southern Mozambique has killed at least 492 people, left 330,000 homeless and caused an estimated $250 million in damage to buildings and infrastructure.
Mozambique was still recovering from a ruinous civil war that ended in l992 when the floods struck. Its growth rate, about 10% a year, is expected to fall now. The country remains one of the poorest in the world.
Facing a huge reconstruction bill, Mozambique's government expressed disappointment Thursday that some creditor nations agreed to suspend--but not cancel--its $1.3 billion in foreign debts.