File photo: A woman, carrying a baby, wades through the water covering the street and bridge connecting the suburbs in the outskirts of Chokwe near the Limpopo river.

Flooding in Mozambique has killed at least 17 people and displaced tens of thousands more, according to United Nations figures, with a fresh storm surge feared Friday.

Severe flooding continues to spread across the south of the country, with the Mozambique government and international agencies rushing to ease the humanitarian disaster.

The floods are a result of week-long torrential rains in South Africa and Zimbabwe that swelled the Limpopo river forcing an orange alert on January 12, when the toll began.

But the full impact of the rains are only now being felt.

An AFP reporter on the scene saw thousands of residents who fled their homes stuck in on road sides leading out of devastated towns, surviving on scarce aid and in some cases grasshoppers.

Their plight was only expected to worsen as further intense rains were expected over the weekend, spreading more chaos.

In the tourist coastal city of Xai-Xai, spared until Friday, up to eight metres of water was expected to hit.

“The water is coming into the city. It is just starting. Some roads in the lower part of town are under water,” said government spokesman Joao Carlos.

“Starting today the situation is not very good.”

Flooding in Xai-Xai would sever the main road connection between the north and south of the country.

Meanwhile in the cities and towns already affected the scale the of the disaster was evident.

Towns such as Chokwe remain submerged, with thousands of homes destroyed and key services such as banks, shops, schools and hospitals wrecked.

Initial evacuations of around 30 000 people who did not hear or ignored flood warnings are under way.

In the capital Maputo several bridges, roads and schools have been seriously damaged.

The price tag in the capital alone is expected to be around $30 million according to UN agencies.

Humanitarian workers are now struggling to provide food and shelter before cholera, malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea grip the make-shift settlements.

Agencies are rushing to supply three mobile hospital tents, 15 000 mosquito nets and various other provisions. - Sapa-AFP