23 | ABR | 2019
Cyclone Idai hit millions across Africa in record disaster
A general view shows destruction after Cyclone Idai in Beira, Mozambique, March 16-17, 2019 in this still image taken from a social media video - Photo: Josh Estey via REUTERS

Cyclone Idai hit millions across Africa in record disaster

19/03/2019
16:59
Reuters
Maputo/Harare
-A +A
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

Cyclone winds and floods that swept across southeastern Africa affected more than 2.6 million people and could rank as one of the worst weather-related disasters recorded in the southern hemisphere, U.N. officials said on Tuesday.

Rescue crews are still struggling to reach victims five days after Cyclone Idai raced in at speeds of up to 170 kph (105 mph) from the Indian Ocean into Mozambique, then its inland neighbors Zimbabwe and Malawi.

Aid groups said many survivors were trapped in remote areas, surrounded by wrecked roads, flattened buildings, and submerged villages, while 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 organization 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 meters deep, completely submerging homes, telephone poles and trees.

The official death count in Mozambique stands at 84—but its president Filipe Nyusi said on Monday he had flown over some of the worst-hit zones, seen bodies floating in rivers and now estimated more than 1,000 people may have died.

The cyclone hit land near Beira on Thursday and moved inland throughout the weekend, leaving heavy rains in its trail on Tuesday.

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, Herve Verhoosel, senior spokesman at the U.N World Food Programme said. It gave no figures for Zimbabwe.

Heavy rains preceded the cyclone, compounding the problems.

“If the worst fears are realized ... then we can say that it is one of the worst weather-related disasters, tropical-cyclone-related disasters in the southern hemisphere,” said Clare Nullis of the U.N. World Meteorological Organization.

The European Union announced on Tuesday an initial emergency aid package of EUR €3.5 million (USD $3.97 million) to Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe for logistical support to reach affected people, emergency shelters, hygiene, sanitation, and health care.

Britain has pledged up to GBP £6 million (USD $7.96 million) in aid.

Citizens in Zimbabwe are mobilizing donations, including cash, food, and clothes to help thousands of families whose homes were wrecked by the cyclone.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who visited Chimanimani on Tuesday, told reporters that Tanzania and the United Arab Emirates were also sending donations while neighbors, including South Africa, Botswana, and Angola, would also help.

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