* Army on stand-by to evacuate people
* High alert for disaster teams
* Thousands of homes ruined in Mozambique
(Adds new details, higher death toll)
JOHANNESBURG, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Floods have killed or left missing at least 40 people in South Africa and wrecked thousands of homes in neighbouring Mozambique, officials said on Monday. Heavy rains from late December through most of January have unleashed floods in the two countries. Torrential downpours at the weekend again swelled rivers in the region.
South Africa’s Cooperative Governance Ministry said at least 40 people had been killed or gone missing in the flooding, and seven out of the country’s nine provinces had been declared disaster zones.
The army has been placed on stand-by to evacuate people from areas near major dams.
“We will continue to do all in our power to minimise further loss of life and damage to property,” said Sicelo Shiceka, the minister of cooperative governance.
South African logistics group Transnet said last week that heavy rains had disrupted its freight rail operations, affecting coal and maize exports.
South Africa’s 2009-10 maize surplus is likely to prevent any supply shortage of the grain this year but the extremely wet conditions may have an impact on the soybean and sunflower harvest, the chief executive of farmers’ group Grain SA told Reuters in an interview last week. In Mozambique, about 13,000 people have seen damage to the their homes or been evacuated due to floods and heavy winds, state-run Radio Mozambique reported on Monday.
At least 10 have been killed in the country.
Reporting by Jon Herskovitz, Peroshni Govender and Olivia Kumwenda in Johannesburg and Charles Mangwiro in Maputo; editing by Mark Heinrich