( AP ) - Rains battered portions of flood-ravaged southern Africa Thursday, killing at least three people in Malawi and forcing Zambia to declare a national disaster.
Flood-related deaths in the region now total 38, with authorities and aid agencies fearing the toll will rise as more rain is expected.
Torrential rains in Zambia and Zimbabwe have swollen the mighty Zambezi river - Africa's fourth longest - to well above the flood limit, with valleys in Malawi and Mozambique bearing the brunt as the waters hurtle down toward the Indian Ocean.
Lowford Palani, district commissioner Chikwawa, in Malawi's southern Lower Shire Valley, said the three people died as they tried to cross flooded rivers.
He said heavy rains have fallen daily, destroying houses and large tracts of crop fields.
"We are yet to determine how many people have been displaced because our assessment officers are failing to reach several villages as roads and bridges have been destroyed," he said.
Palani said tents are being erected to house displaced people while the Department of Disaster Preparedness has warned of more flooding in the Lower Shire Valley.
In Zambia, where one death has been reported, President Levy Mwanawasa declared a national disaster Thursday during a visit to the country's flood-stricken south, the state-run broadcaster reported.
Mwanawasa has appealed for international aid, saying the country would not be able to shoulder the burden of reconstruction alone.
With another two months of the rainy season - and the peak only expected in mid-February - flooding in central Mozambique is expected to be more extensive than in 2001 when 800 people died.
But Mozambican authorities are optimistic they can keep loss of life to a minimum because of a disaster prevention strategy they began planning last October. Seven flood-related deaths have been reported.
In Zimbabwe, 27 people have died. With chronic shortages of hard currency and the world's highest inflation, the country's rescue services are ill-equipped to cope.