Hundreds feared dead as Cyclone Idai rips across southern Africa

Saul Bowman
March 19, 2019

Mozambique's President Filipe Nyusi has said that he expects the number of people who have died from Cyclone Idai to exceed one thousand.

He called the situation a "real humanitarian disaster of large proportions". "More than 100,000 people are in danger". [Courtesy] "The scale of damage". "It seems that 90 percent of the area is completely destroyed".

"The situation is bad. The scale of devastation is enormous", Jamie LeSueur, who is leading IFRC's assessment team in the city, said.

"Almost everything is destroyed". Bridges were swept away, and power and communication lines cut off in the area.

The decision was made in response to a request from Mozambique, the Ministry confirmed, after it was hit by the Category 4 Tropical Cyclone "Idai". Emma Beaty, coordinator of a grouping of NGOs known as Cosaco, said: "We've never had something of this magnitude before in Mozambique". [Courtesy] 'A ideal storm' "Some dams have broke, and others have reached full capacity, they'll very soon open the flood gates".

Beira has a population of 500,000 and sits at the mouth of the Pungwe River. Villages had disappeared, he said, and bodies were floating in the water.

People carry their persinal effects through a flooded section of Praia Nova in Beira. "We are sleeping rough, we are eating poorly and we don't have houses anymore".

Beira has been severely battered by the cyclone which cut off electricity, forced the airport to shut down and closed road access to the city, said the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies on Monday.

An AFP journalist on a flight to Beira said most passengers were going to check on their families who they haven't heard from since the cyclone struck.

Eskom said it was "unlikely that imports from Mozambique will be restored in the next few days, which we can now confirm was affected by the cyclone".

Roads have been swallowed by massive sinkholes, while bridges were ripped to pieces by the flash floods, according to the AFP photographer.

Harare is battling to rescue thousands of people in Chimanimani and Chipinge, the hardest hit districts of Manicaland Province, east of the country bordering Mozambique. But conditions do not allow for an air rescue, the government's ministry of information said.

Two boarding school students were among those killed in eastern Zimbabwe, according to Kutadzaushe.

While Idai was not as intense as comparable storms that ravaged the region in 2008 and 2000, a rapid rise in the amount of people living in the area means that "damages may be worse", said Jennifer Fitchett, a senior lecturer in physical geography at University of the Witwatersrand. More than 150 people have died as a result. Their fate was unknown because the area was still unreachable.

"We are here because our house has been submerged by the water", the 35-year-old said.

"We now have helicopters picking people and we will have a better idea of the extent of damage and devastation in due time".

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