(Recasts with deaths, previous JOHANNESBURG)
MAPUTO, Jan 19 (Reuters) - Flooding in southeast Africa this week has killed at least five people, forced thousands to evacuate homes in Mozambique and led to an airlift of about 20 foreign tourists at South Africa’s flagship Kruger National Park, officials said on Thursday.
The damage was heaviest in Mozambique, which reported the deaths. Torrential rains swelled rivers, destroyed structures and caused more than 5,000 people to evacuate their homes in the southern provinces of Maputo, Gaza and Inhambane, weather officials said.
Forecasts indicate more storms could be heading to the region, threatening farms and coal mines in Mozambique.
Gates at Kruger have been closed to tourists after floods ripped up roads at the park that borders Mozambique.
The tourists evacuated from Kruger included Americans and Canadians. They were plucked by helicopter to safety after a washed-out bridge left them isolated in the massive park.
“There wasn’t any other way to get out of the park,” said Canadian Linda Freeman. (Reporting by Lisa Laventure in Johannesburg and Willam Mapote in Maputo; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by David Dolan)