Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to examine vulnerability conditions to flood disasters in Tokwe-Mukorsi community, Zimbabwe and identifies the barriers that constrained the community from relocating to safe sites. Design/methodology/approach - Using a questionnaire survey, field observations and interviews, the paper examines the biophysical and social vulnerability of the Tokwe-Mukorsi community, Zimbabwe, as well as the barriers that prevented it from relocating to safe sites. A thematic analysis of the large volumes of qualitative data from interviews and walk-through analyses was conducted. Descriptive statistics were used in analysing quantitative data from questionnaires. Findings - Results reveal that households living upstream and downstream of the dam were highly vulnerable to floods. Their biophysical vulnerability was partly induced by the construction of the dam whose basin encroached into the farming and settlement area. The extremely vulnerable group were households living below level of 660 m where five saddle dams had been constructed. The built environment of the community exhibited ignorance of standard building codes. The poor socio-economic conditions of the community and the incessant rains experienced over two weeks contributed to the flood disaster in early 2014. The Tokwe-Mukorsi community failed to relocate to safe places partly due to lack of compensation, absence of basic infrastructure and drought occurrence in relocation sites. Research limitations/implications - The calculation of social vulnerability indices is beyond the scope of this study due to non-availability of quantitative data at community level. Originality/value - This paper provides a comprehensive understanding of why some communities may fail to relocate despite being highly vulnerable to flood disasters.