Total on Friday abandoned its installations on Afungi peninsula. All Total staff have been withdrawn, unlike the closure on 1 January when a skeleton staff was left behind. This suggests that Total expects the closure to be long term – probably more than a year.
The installation has simply been handed over to the Mozambican military (FDS) force of about 800, which is inside the fence around the construction site.
In abandoning Afungi, Total left behind many Mozambicans working for contractors. The Afungi airstrip was open this morning for military flights and at least one contractor flew in to rescue staff. Total also left behind a huge number of people who had fled to the project gates seeking shelter, but were not allowed to enter. Estimates range from 2000 to 20,000 people, including local residents, contractor staff, and people who had fled the war once before to seek safety in Palma town.
Total’s zone includes the fenced construction site and an area outside the fence that includes Quitunda, the village for people resettled from the construction zone. Insurgents came mixed with people seeking shelter and regrouped within the Total zone but outside the fence. There was fighting today (3 April) in Quitunda and elsewhere in the peripheral zone.
There are predictions of an attack tonight on the fenced construction site. If it happens, it would be the largest battle between insurgents and FDS. But some equally informed sources do not expect an attack and contractors are planning more rescue flights on Sunday (tomorrow) morning to Afungi.
UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) stopped WFP-managed evacuation flights from Afungi to Pemba on Friday, due to the deteriorating security situation. Since the 24 March attack on Palma, UNHAS has evacuated 380 vulnerable people, mainly women and children.
UN sources say more than 10,000 people, 45% of them children, fleeing from Palma, have reached the provincial capital, Pemba, and the districts of Nangade, Mueda and Montepuez. Thousands of people are displaced inside Palma District and thousands more are on the move through the forest in search of safety, with some trying to reach Tanzania.