Death of eight people due to rain dates back to the 2015 tragedy in Lobito – Jornal OPaís

The heavy rains that recently hit the cities of Lobito and Catumbela, claiming the lives of 8 people, made residents remember the desolate scenario recorded on March 11, 2015, in which around 100 citizens died from the same cause. Nine years later, the Government is still struggling to relocate victims, as part of a program that envisages the construction of 1,500 homes

Thousands of families from mountainous areas, namely Chimbuíla and Picapau, in the municipality of Catumbela, with houses on water lines, retreat to the March floods to remember that the Government has not yet fulfilled, in general, the promises made 9 years ago, when one of the biggest tragedies occurred in Benguela. The municipal administrations of Lobito and Catumbela say they are doing what they can to address this or that situation, given that the budgets received annually do not meet existing needs.

In relation to the railway-port city, the one most affected by the recent rains, its administrator, Evaristo Calopa Mário, recently complained, in an interview with the newspaper OPAÍS, the lack of financial resources to remove people from areas described as being at risk. The government official maintains that, given the scale of the problems, Lobito would need a budget in the order of 2 billion kwanzas. What he receives, he says, falls far short of what he wanted. The same complaint comes from Kátia Teixeira, administrator of Catumbela, who expresses human and financial incapacity for this purpose, having listed deficiencies in a series of functional infrastructures, with emphasis on the sewage system. While government officials complain about a lack of financial resources, some residents of the cities of Lobito and Catumbela are experiencing difficult situations.

On the one hand, people whose houses were destroyed dating back to the fateful day of March 11, 2015, which have not yet been built; on the other hand, those who reckon with their lives, bury and mourn their dead and search for loved ones who are still missing. Those affected by the March rains were relocated to the Cabrais urbanization. But, there are those who, to this day, are waiting for the authorities’ signal to abandon neighborhoods, where residences have been marked since 2016. What most of them feared, happened.

The rain will return in 2024, taking away their sleep, “re-editing” old problems and destroying 86 homes. Adriano Jamba recognizes that he is living in a risk area, in Catumbela, and launches a cry for help, with the aim of the Government removing them from there and, immediately, placing them in safer areas. In an interview with Zimbo and the newspaper O PAÍS, the citizen complained about the fact that, every now and then, Local Administration technicians pass by there, after having already marked the houses, but theirs, until now, it is not known where is that they will be housed. “As long as the conditions are right, I am willing to leave this area”, said the citizen.

The (over)experience in the Cabrais

From the municipal headquarters of Lobito and Catumbela to Urbanização dos Cabrais, a space designed in the consulate of Isaac dos Anjos to accommodate 300 families who were victims of the floods of March 11. Recently, the provincial governor of Benguela, Luís Nunes, delivered 30 houses, as part of a project that plans to build more than 300 houses in Cabrais alone. In this area, this newspaper’s report noted a mix of feelings prevailing among residents: satisfaction and concern. Among the residents there are those who express satisfaction at finally having their house finished with the minimum conditions needed to live with dignity; concern due to lack of fulfillment of promises made years ago.

“The registration has passed so far, we don’t have it. They haven’t built my house yet”, complains the injured Amélia Jamba, who says that her hut, previously built for shelter, was destroyed by recent rains. In turn, Angelina Napatele, one of the beneficiaries of the 30 houses completed and delivered by Luís Nunes, in 2023, states that the Government made available a decent house, allowing better accommodation for her family but regrets the lack of services due to the distance.

“We left the tents for our own house. We lived in the tent for seven years, then the tents started to tear up and we still lived on the construction sites”, said Angelina, visibly satisfied with the institutional action. The coordinator of the 11 de Novembro Cabrais neighborhood, Adelino Pedro, praises some of the work done so far by the Government, especially with regard to the finishing of houses, but complains about the insufficiencies in water distribution, which are also accompanied by problems of insecurity. The company responsible for supplying water has long since suddenly stopped doing so, which, to some extent, worries the neighborhood coordinator.

After the events of 2015, the central government approved a program to build 1,500 social homes, some of which for families who are now complaining. In statements to the press recently, the provincial governor, Luís Nunes, once again referred to the project, having assured the gradual construction of the houses. “There are one hundred in the first phase, we will do as we find financial availability. We are also going to expand the residential area in Cabrais”, said the government official, referring to the urbanization of Cabrais, in the municipality of Catumbela.

An expert’s critical look

Architect Felisberto Amado states that the rush that is taking place, as a result of the latest events, reflects the consequences of a centralized governance model, with the country’s capital defining everything, and weaknesses in drainage ditches. Data in this newspaper’s possession indicates that Lobito has 40 kilometers of drainage ditches, many of which are in need of desilting work and which were the cause of the March 2015 tragedy.

The teacher also recalls that the tragedy of almost 100 deaths and a battalion of homeless people, recorded in 2015, left no life lessons, having criticized what he calls the abandonment of work. According to the expert, we didn’t learn from past mistakes “and, even worse, we didn’t even prevent ourselves from things that could eventually happen. We are facing a Government without competence”, he says. He holds the Government responsible for the loss of the population’s assets. “The water does not find natural paths to circulate, a dam appears, bursts and destroys everything in its path and this negligence causes the population to lose property every year”, he considers.

BY: Constantino Eduardo, in Benguela

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