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cyclone idai

Over 1,000 feared dead after Cyclone Idai slams into Mozambique

The cyclone hit the city of Beri on Thursday, before it moved into neighbouring Zimbabwe.

Mozambique Cyclone A woman hangs a cloth to dry in a sea of rubble in the Praia Nova area of Beira after Cyclone Idai Denis Onyodi / IFRC Denis Onyodi / IFRC / IFRC

THE DEATH TOLL in Mozambique following Cyclone Idai could reach over 1,000, President Filipe Nyusi has suggested. 

The cyclone hit the city of Beri on Thursday, before it moved into neighbouring Zimbabwe, unleashing fierce winds and flash floods.

The official death toll currently stands at 84 in Mozambique. 

“When we flew over the area… this morning to understand what’s going on, everything indicates that we could register more than 1,000 deaths,” Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi said in a nationwide address.

This is a real humanitarian disaster. More than 100,000 people are in danger.

Aerial photographs released by a Christian non-profit organisation, the Mission Aviation Fellowship, showed groups of people stuck on roof tops with flood waters up to window level.

“The scale of damage… (in) Beira is massive and horrifying”, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said.

90% of the city of some 530,000 people and its surrounding area has been “damaged or destroyed,” it said in a statement.

Mozambique Cyclone People carry their belongings through a flooded section of Praia Nova in Beira Denis Onyodi / IFRC Denis Onyodi / IFRC / IFRC

“The situation is terrible. The scale of devastation is enormous,” an IFRC spokesperson said.

Almost everything is destroyed. Communication lines have been completely cut and roads have been destroyed. Some affected communities are not accessible.

President Nyusi said the Pungwe and Buzi rivers in central Mozambique ”have burst their banks and engulfed entire villages”.

“Communities are isolated and bodies are floating” on the waters, he said. 

Beira International Airport was closed because of cyclone damage. However, it later reopened.

Zimbabwe hit

In neighbouring Zimbabwe, Idai has also caused significant damage.

It swept away homes and ripped bridges to pieces, leaving destruction that the acting Defence Minister, Perrance Shiri, said “resembles the aftermath of a full-scale war”.

“There was a lot of destruction both on our facilities and on people,” said Shiri, speaking on television from the affected eastern highlands region.

Some roads were swallowed up by massive sinkholes, while bridges were ripped to pieces by flash floods, according to an AFP photographer.

“This is the worst infrastructural damage we have ever had,” Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Joel Biggie Matiza said. 

Mozambique Cyclone People salvaging what is left of their belongings in Praia Nova, Beira Denis Onyodi / IFRC Denis Onyodi / IFRC / IFRC

The eastern district of Chimanimani was the worst-hit area, with houses and most of the region’s bridges washed away by flash floods.

The most affected areas of the country are not yet accessible. High winds and dense clouds have hampered military rescue helicopter flights. 

Joshua Sacco, lawmaker for Chimanimani, told AFP that between “150 to 200 people” are missing.

The majority of them are thought to be government workers, whose housing complex was completely engulfed by raging waters.

Their fate was unknown because the area was still unreachable.

“We are very worried because all these houses were just suddenly submerged under water and literally washed away and that is where we have about 147 missing,” he said.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa cut short his visit to Abu Dhabi, saying on his return home today that “we are deeply grieved as a nation”.

Includes reporting by © AFP 2019

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