U.S. Troops Leave Mozambique

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With flood emergency relief winding down, the U.S. military pulled out of Mozambique on Tuesday, and the World Bank estimated it will cost over $400 million to rebuild the nation’s damaged
infrastructure.


The 700 troops that took part in the operation left for Hoedspruit Air Base in neighboring South Africa, where mission operations were based, said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Tom Dolney. It will take a week before all troops have returned to their bases in Europe and the United States.

“We reached successful completion of our mission, which was to assist with the civilian aid effort and search and rescue if necessary, and to assist with movement of supplies and synchronization of efforts,” Dolney said.

The U.S. military never had to perform any rescues in Mozambique, he said. By the time the mission kicked into full gear in early March, most of the thousands of flood victims stranded on roofs and in trees had been flown to safety by South African military pilots.

Germany and Malawi are also expected to pull out this week, taking with them helicopters and cargo aircraft that have been used to feed and shelter hundreds of thousands who fled their homes during the last month of heavy flooding.

Aid workers said they were concerned.

"Some roads are open, but there are other roads that are not. There are a lot of island locations that are still dependent on helicopters," said Aya Shneerson, spokeswoman for the World Food Programme.

The British withdrew their five Sea King helicopters from Mozambique's second city of Beira over the weekend, but were chartering five private helicopters to continue flying supplies to stranded communities and isolated refugee camps.

The South African Air Force, which won praise for its daring operations to rescue people from trees and rooftops during the worst of the flooding last month, is expected to decide this how much longer it would remain.

Mozambique Foreign Minister Leonardo Simao said roads were being opened as the government continued emergency repairs and it was easier to truck aid to battered central regions.

The devastating floods in Mozambique could dampen the country's economic growth rate by up to three percentage points this year, the World Bank said on Tuesday.

Mozambique, one of Africa's few economic success stories of late, will need up to $428 million to rebuild its damaged infrastructure, said Jim Coates, the World Bank's resident representative in the capital Maputo.

"The effect of the floods will be to slow growth by two to three percentage points," he said.

Coates said growth was still expected to top five percent despite the flooding since mid-February that has killed at least 640 people and displaced hundreds of thousands more.

Despite an external debt burden of about $8.3 billion, Mozambique boasted one of Africa's fastest growing econmies before the floods, with an annual growth of gross domestic product at more than 10 percent for the past three years.

The government is urging total cancellation of debt so it can rebuild flood-ravaged areas.

White House Spokesman Joe Lockhart says the United States has already allocated $50 million for the Mozambique relief effort. He said at the White House on Tuesday, "We will look at other requests as this effort of rebuilding and reconstruction continues."

The floods swept away the homes or livelihoods of one in 10 of the population of 19 million. An estimated 650,000 will depend on emergency aid for at least six months.

The surging water damaged more than 600 primary schools, wrecked more than 625 miles of roads and downed 250 miles of power lines.

Crops in fertile river valleys in central and southern Mozambique have been destroyed. Large tracts of land remain submerged by water and thick soft mud. Seeds, farm tools - even the little money they had in their huts - just floated away.

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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