Abb Takk News

Cyclone Idai: Death toll over 300 in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi

HARARE: Aid workers raced on Thursday to help survivors and meet spiraling humanitarian needs in three southern African countries battered by the region’s worst storm in years.

Five days after tropical cyclone Idai cut a swathe through Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, the confirmed death toll stood at more than 300 and hundreds of thousands of lives were at risk, officials said.

Mozambique, where the monster storm made landfall early last Friday, is reeling.

World Food Programme (WFP) spokeswoman Deborah Nguyen said in Beira that “the priority today is to rush to rescue people trapped in the flooded areas” as much as organizing a temporary shelter for those rescued.

UN said it was “one of the worst natural disasters in southern Africa“, and launched an international appeal for relief funds, having earlier said it was aiming to help Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi said on Tuesday that 202 people had died, according to the latest toll, and nearly 350 000 people were at risk.

In Zimbabwe, the death toll stood at 100 but was expected to surge to 300, while up to 15 000 people are estimated to have been hit by the storm.

In Malawi, nearly a million people have been affected and more than 80 000 forced from their homes, according to the UN.

Aid agencies said they were prepared for the cyclone which made landfall early Friday, but not for the massive floods that followed.

Mozambique bore the brunt from rivers that flow downstream from its neighbours.

Beira airport which was partially damaged by the storm and temporarily shut, had re-opened to become the relief operations hub but is proving not large enough.

Air force personnel from Mozambique and South Africa have been drafted in to fly rescue missions and distribute aid which can only be airlifted as roads out of Beira have been destroyed.

A government worker who asked not be identified spoke from a roadside after he was rescued by boat in Nhamatanda, some 60 kilometres (40 miles) northwest of Beira, saying “this is the first time our generation has seen something like this”.

Climate expert John Mutter, a professor at the Earth Institute at New York’s Columbia University, said the heavy toll was partly explained by the infrequency of such weather events in southern Africa.

In Zimbabwe, at least 217 people are listed as missing in Chimanimani in Manicaland, an eastern province which borders Mozambique.

The district remains cut off after roads were swallowed by massive sinkholes and bridges were ripped to pieces by flash floods – a landscape that Defence Minister Perrance Shiri said “resembles the aftermath of a full-scale war”.

After visiting some of the victims in Chimanimani, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said “a tragedy has visited us”. The three countries are some of the poorest in the region and depend heavily on foreign aid.