Cyclone Death Toll in the Hundreds 03/19 07:28
JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- Rapidly rising floodwaters have created "an inland
ocean" in Mozambique endangering scores of thousands of families, as aid
organizations scramble to rescue and provide food to survivors of Cyclone Idai.
Mozambique's swollen rivers have already flooded huge expanses of the
country and continued rains are causing the waters to rise, endangering people
on rooftops and clinging to treetops, said emergency workers.
"This is a major humanitarian emergency that is getting bigger by the hour,"
said Herve Verhoosel of the World Food Program on Tuesday. He said large
numbers of people are "crammed on rooftops and elevated patches of land outside
the port city of Beira" and WFP is rescuing as many as possible and providing
airdrops of food, water and blankets.
Mozambique's Pungue and Buzi rivers have overflowed, creating "inland oceans
extending for miles and miles in all directions," said Verhoosel.
"People visible from the air may be the lucky ones, and the top priority now
is to rescue as many as possible and ferry them to safety," he said.
Four tons of high-energy biscuits are being air dropped Monday as part of 20
tons of food that WFP will distribute.
Cyclone Idai created massive damage as it swept across central Mozambique
before dropping huge amounts of rain in Zimbabwe's eastern mountains. That
rainfall is now rushing back through Mozambique further inundating the already
"It's dire," Caroline Haga of the Red Cross told The Associated Press from
Beira. "We did an aerial surveillance yesterday and saw people on rooftops and
in tree branches. The waters are still rising and we are desperately trying to
save as many as possible."
Satellite images are helping the rescue teams to target the most critical
areas, said Haga.
"We're in a very scary situation," she said. Rescue operations are based at
Beira airport, which is one of the few places in the city that has
The flooding disaster is also affecting Malawi and Zimbabwe where hundreds
are dead, many more are missing and thousands are at risk.
Mozambique's President Filipe Nyusi has said the death toll could reach as
high as 1,000. Although emergency workers warn they do not know whether the
fatalities will reach that estimate, they say this is the region's most
destructive flooding in 20 years.
Hardest hit is Mozambique's Beira port, a city of 500,000 where thousands of
homes have been destroyed.
The city and surrounding areas have no power and nearly all communication
lines have been destroyed. Beira's main hospital has been badly damaged. The
cities of Dondo and Chimoio in central Mozambique are also badly affected.
The medical charity Doctors Without Borders said its work in Beira and other
local health centers had "ceased completely" but it was working to resume
operations. The group anticipates that water and hygiene needs will remain high
in the coming days.
In Zimbabwe the death toll has risen to 98, the government said. The
mountain town of Chimanimani was badly hit. Several roads leading into the town
have been cut off, with the only access by helicopter.
Malawi's government has confirmed 56 deaths, three missing and 577 injured
amid the severe flooding. Rivers have burst their banks, leaving many houses
submerged and around 11,000 households displaced in the southern district of