Idai wreaks havoc

Not taking into account the toll Cyclone Idai had on Zimbabwe and Malawi, Mozambique has a long road to recovery.

20 March 2019 | International

More than 1 000 people were feared dead in Mozambique four days after a cyclone slammed into the country, submerging entire villages and leaving bodies floating in the floodwaters, the nation's president said.

“It is a real disaster of great proportions,” President Filipe Nyusi said.

Cyclone Idai could prove to be the deadliest storm in generations to hit the impoverished southeast African country of 30 million people.

It struck Beira, an Indian Ocean port city of a half-million people, late Thursday and then moved inland to Zimbabwe and Malawi with strong winds and heavy rain. But it took days for the scope of the disaster to come into focus in Mozambique, which has a poor communication and transportation network and a corrupt and inefficient bureaucracy.

Speaking on Radio Mozambique, Nyusi said that while the official death toll stood at 84, “It appears that we can register more than 1 000 deaths.”

Emergency officials cautioned that while they expect the death toll to rise significantly, they have no way of knowing if it will reach the president's estimate.

More than 215 people were killed by the storm in the three countries, including more than 80 in Zimbabwe's eastern Chimanimani region and more than 50 in Malawi, according to official figures. Hundreds more were reported injured and missing, and nearly 1 000 homes were destroyed in eastern Zimbabwe alone.

Doctors Without Borders said rivers have broken their banks leaving many houses fully submerged and around 11 000 households displaced in Nsanje, in southern Malawi.

UN agencies and the Red Cross helped rush emergency food and medicine by helicopter to the stricken countries.

The United Nation's humanitarian office said the government issued flood warnings and said heavy rains were forecast until this morning, including in areas already hit hard by Idai.

The Red Cross said 90% of Beira was damaged or destroyed. The cyclone knocked out electricity, shut down the airport and cut off access to the city by road.

UN officials cited reports that Beira Central Hospital's emergency room was flooded and without power, and that much of the building's roof had collapsed. Doctors Without Borders said it had completely ceased operations in Beira hospital, local health centres and throughout the community.

The destruction in Beira is “massive and horrifying”, said Jamie LeSueur, who led a Red Cross team that had to assess the damage by helicopter because of the flooded-out roads. The UN also warned of devastation outside Beira, in particular of livestock and crops.

“As this damage is occurring just before the main harvest season, it could exacerbate food insecurity in the region,” the UN OCHA office said.

NAMPA/AP

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