The number of people killed in a powerful cyclone and flooding in Mozambique has risen above 200, more than doubling the country’s death toll from a storm that could rank as one of the worst weather-related disasters in the southern hemisphere.
Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi said in a televised statement following a cabinet meeting on the disaster on Tuesday that the death toll after Cylone Idai now stood at more than 200, up from 84.
Winds of up to 170 kph (105 mph) and flooding swept across southeastern Africa, including Zimbabwe and Mozambique, affecting more than 2.6 million people, United Nations officials said on Tuesday.
There has been a lot of damage. Many homes have been left without roofs.
Rescue crews were still struggling to reach victims five days later, while aid groups said many survivors were trapped in remote areas, surrounded by wrecked roads, flattened buildings and submerged villages. The Red Cross said at least 400,000 people had been made homeless in central Mozambique alone.
“This is the worst humanitarian crisis in Mozambique’s history,” said Jamie LeSueur, who is leading rescue efforts in Beira for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
The organisation said large areas to the west of the port city of Beira were severely flooded, and in places close to the Buzi and Pungwe rivers flood waters are metres deep, completely submerging homes, telephone poles and trees.
LeSueur had said earlier on Tuesday, when the death toll was 84, that the full human impact of the disaster remained unclear, and that the figure was likely to rise.
While the official count has increased, it remains well below the 1,000 deaths Nyusi had estimated after flying over some of the worst-hit zones, witnessing submerged villages and bodies floating in the water.
The cyclone hit land near Beira on Thursday and moved inland throughout the weekend, leaving heavy rains in its trail on Tuesday. More rural areas remained unaccessible.
Studies of satellite images suggested 1.7 million people were in the path of the cyclone in Mozambique and another 920,000 affected in Malawi, said Herve Verhoosel, senior spokesman at the U.N World Food Programme. He gave no figures for Zimbabwe.
In Maputo, Mozambique’s capital, people worried about missing relatives.
Telma fa Gloria, a street vendor, said she had not heard from her mother, who she usually speaks to every day, or her siblings, for days. Her mother’s neighbourhood was in one of the worst-hit areas.
“I’m stitched up, with nothing to do,” she said, adding she was thinking of going to Beira to find out what had happened. “I don’t have the strength to get the news I don’t want to hear, and I don’t wish anyone to hear.”
Tanzania, EU send emergency support
Tanzania has sent relief aid to neighbouring Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi following the devastating impact of Cyclone Idai that has ravaged parts of the country.
Reports indicate that the aid package included food and medical supplies. Overall, 214 tons of food and 24 tons of medical supplies were dispatched by the Tanzania government.
Members of the army are seen packing the supplies into military aircrafts to be sent to the affected areas.
South Africa and UNICEF were among the first to start a fund raiser aimed at gathering public support for humanitarian efforts. All three affected countries have called for assistance to contain the crisis.
The European Union has meanwhile released 3.5 million euros in emergency aid for the three countries. The breakdown of the funds are as follows:
Mozambique = 2 million euros
Zimbabwe = 1 million euros
Malawi = 500,000 euros
Death toll could surpass 1,000
Mozambique’s president, Filipe Nyusi on Monday said the death toll from Cyclone Idai and the preceding floods could exceed 1,000.
Only 84 deaths have been confirmed so far in Mozambique as a result of Cyclone Idai, which has also left a trail of death and destruction across Zimbabwe and Malawi, with vast areas of land flooded, roads destroyed and communication wiped out.
Speaking on Radio Mocambique, Nyusi said he had flown over the affected region, where two rivers had overflowed. Villages had disappeared, he said, and bodies were floating in the water.
“Everything indicates that we can register more than one thousand deaths,” he said.
The cyclone has also killed 89 people in Zimbabwe, an official said on Monday, while the death toll in Malawi from heavy rains and flooding stood at 56 as of last week. No new numbers had been released following the cyclone’s arrival in the country.
Caroline Haga, a senior International Federation of the Red Cross official who is in Beira, said the situation could be far worse in the surrounding areas, which remained completely cut off by road and where houses were not as sturdy.
Nyusi flew over areas that were otherwise accessible, and some of which had been hit by flooding before Cyclone Idai.
Southern Africa counting losses as South Africa sends support
As at Monday morning (March 18), government estimates showed that at least 89 people have died in Zimbabwe after Cyclone Idai tore across the eastern and southern parts of the country.
The scale of destruction is only becoming apparent as rescuers reach the most affected areas, near the border with Mozambique.
Chimanimani district has been cut off from the rest of the country by torrential rains and winds of up to 170 km per hour that swept away roads, homes and bridges and knocked out power and communication lines.
The ensuing humanitarian crisis heaps more pressure on a nation grappling with economic woes and a drought.
Video obtained by Reuters showed people weeping as bodies were recovered from a local church in the aftermath of the cyclone. Local officials say the body count is expected to rise.
Meanwhile Mozambique which was also battered has also recorded deaths amid heavy flooding. A combine figure of deaths would exceed the 100 mark as authorities grapple with massive flooding from the weekend.
Over in South Africa, President Ramaphosa deployed the South Africa National Defence Force, SANDF, to help Mozambican rescue effort.
Zimbabwe counts losses, president cuts UAE trip
Zimbabwean government continues its humanitarian response to the effects of Cyclone Idai which battered parts of the country leaving in its trail death and destruction.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa who was in Dubai on an official visit has cancelled the trip and is due back home to join in the efforts being rolled out to manage the crisis.
Flooding likely to continue
Mozambique’s weather service has warned that heavy rain will continue to batter Beira and surrounding areas until Sunday.
The UN warned of damage to crops, “including about 168,000 hectares (415,000 acres) of crops already impacted by flooding in early March, which will undermine food security and nutrition”.
Mozambique and Malawi, two of the poorest countries in the world, are prone to deadly flooding during the rainy season and chronic drought during the dry season.
In neighbouring Zimbabwe, weather services have warned that violent thunderstorms, lightning and strong winds will be experienced in the eastern regions of the country.
At least 126 people were killed by the downpour that has struck parts of Mozambique, Malawi and South Africa over the past week, officials said.
Cyclone Idai batters Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe’s information ministry said on Saturday that at least 24 people were killed when the tropical storm hit and swept away homes and bridges in the south eastern part of the country.
“Number of deaths is confirmed at 24 mainly from Chimanimani east. The number of missing people is currently 40 (and) the fatalities include 2 students,” the ministry said on Twitter.
Joshua Sacco, a member of parliament in the eastern district of Chimanimani, told Reuters that the storm had left a trail of destruction reminiscent of Cyclone Eline in February 2000, which devastated southern Zimbabwe.
Sacco said the death toll was expected to rise as authorities continued to assess the situation.
Chimanimani, which borders Mozambique, has been worst affected, with the storm causing floods as well as destroying crops, Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Information said.
Air force helicopters were rescuing people, but flights were being slowed by heavy winds.
Counting the cost in Mozambique
Tropical cyclone Idai battered central Mozambique on Friday killing at least 19 people and cutting off more than half a million people in one of the country’s largest cities Beira.
State broadcaster Radio Mocambique, said “preliminary information points to 19 deaths and more than 70 injured in Sofala province as a result of cyclone Idai”.
Most of the deaths occurred in Beira — a port hub and capital of Sofala province — a city which has virtually been cut off after power lines crashed, the airport was shut and roads swamped by flooding.
“The hardest moment was overnight and this morning,” provincial governor Alberto Mondlane told state radio referring to the time the cyclone barrelled through the province.
“There has been a lot of damage. Many homes have been left without roofs,” he added.
An official at the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) told AFP earlier that “houses and trees were destroyed and pylons downed”.
Authorities were forced to close Beira international airport after the air traffic control tower, the navigation systems and the runways were damaged by the storm.
“Unfortunately there is extreme havoc,” said the official.
“Some runway lights were damaged, the navigation system is damaged, the control tower antennas and the control tower itself are all damaged.
“The runway is full of obstacles and parked aircrafts are damaged.”
Late on Wednesday, the national carrier LAM cancelled all flights to Beira and Quelimane, which is also on the coast, as well as to Chomoio, which is inland.
Power utility Electricidade de Mocambique said in a statement that the provinces of Manica, Sofala and parts of Inhambane have been without power since Thursday.
Another official, Pedro Armando Alberto Virgula, in Chinde north of Beira, said a hospital, police station and seven schools there lost their roofs and several houses were destroyed.
Bonifacio Cebola, a spokesman for the Beira Central Hospital, said that the theatre at the country’s second largest hospital was not spared and surgeries have been suspended.
“Because of the cyclone, the (theatre) no longer has conditions for patients to be operated on,” Cebola said to Radio Moçambique.
Braced for the worst
Authorities in Mozambique are working around the clock to mitigate the damage caused by a powerful tropical storm that made landfall on Thursday evening, battering a coastal city with heavy rain and wind at speeds of up to up 170 km an hour and injuring several people.
In Beira, a city of around 500,000 people and a gateway for imports to landlocked countries in southeast Africa, Twitter images and television footage showed billboards and rooftops blown off, trees snapped and electricity cables strewn across the streets.
In the northern Zambezi province, villages along the coastline were cut off from the mainland by the storm surge.
Mozambican television channel TVM reported that at least five people had been seriously injured.
Cyclone Idai dumped more water and brought destruction on areas where scores of people have already been killed and tens of thousands displaced by floods over the past week.
The Mozambican government’s emergency services have yet to give an update on the situation. The storm was also expected to hit parts of neighbouring Malawi.
“Cyclone Idai made landfall at about midnight and is now lying north west off Beira,” said Jan Vermeulen, senior forecaster at South African Weather service.
“We don’t have any communications from the area. This is an intense tropical cyclone, and I think there’s a lot of damage to infrastructure which is probably responsible for the loss in communications.”
As it moves inland on Friday, the weather system will weaken but is still expected to result in significant rainfall and widespread flooding over the Sofala and Manica provinces, the extreme eastern parts of Zimbabwe and southern parts of Malawi, the South African Weather Service said.
Mozambique has seen deadly floods worsened by devastating hurricanes in the past, including in 2000 and 2007. Cyclone Eline, which hit the country in February 2000 when it was already devastated by its worst floods in three decades, killed 350 people and made 650,000 homeless across southern Africa.
Mozambique has significant offshore liquefied natural gas projects underway in the north, but these are currently out of harm’s way.