INTRODUCTION : Tropical Cyclone Idai hits Mozambique
Tropical Cyclone Idai made landfall on 14 March at 23.30 GMT, close to Beira City in Mozambique. Heavy rainfall, strong winds (above 150 km/h) and storm surge estimated at 2.5m height affected the region. Initial reports indicate there may be hundreds of deaths, and hundreds of thousands of people impacted in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.
The scale of damage caused in Beira, Mozambique’s fourth largest city, is described as “massive and horrifying.” A team from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) aid workers that reached the devastated city on Sunday, said that it seemed that 90 percent of the area is completely destroyed. The National Disaster Management Institute (INGC) estimates that 600,000 people are currently at risk and in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in the affected areas.
With the flooding easing in parts of cyclone-stricken Mozambique on Friday, fears are rising that the waters could yield up many more bodies. The confirmed number of people killed in Mozambique and neighboring Zimbabwe and Malawi climbed past 600.
Eight days after Cyclone Idai struck southeast Africa’s Indian Ocean coast, touching off some of the worst flooding in decades, the homeless, hungry and injured slowly made their way from devastated inland areas to the port city of Beira, which was heavily damaged itself but has emerged as the nerve center for rescue efforts.
“Some were wounded. Some were bleeding,” said Julia Castigo, a Beira resident who watched them arrive. “Some had feet white like flour for being in the water for so long.”
Aid workers are seeing many children who have been separated from their parents in the chaos or orphaned.
Elhadj As Sy, secretary-general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said the relief efforts so far “are nowhere near the scale and magnitude of the problem”, and the humanitarian needs are likely to grow in the coming weeks and months.
“We should brace ourselves,” he said.
Rescue efforts continue
Helicopters set off into the rain for another day of efforts to find people clinging to rooftops and trees.
Pedro Matos, emergency coordinator for the World Food Programme, said rescuers are sometimes spotting “just a hut completely surrounded by water”.
With water and sanitation systems largely destroyed, waterborne diseases are a growing concern.
“The situation is simply horrendous. There is no other way to describe it,” As Sy said after touring camps for the growing number of displaced.
“Three thousand people who are living in a school that has 15 classrooms and six, only six, toilets. You can imagine how much we are sitting on a water and sanitation ticking bomb.”
The death toll in Mozambique rose to 293, with an untold number of people missing and the mortuary at Beira’s central hospital already reported full. Deaths could soar beyond the 1 000 predicted by the country’s president earlier this week, As Sy said.
The number of dead was put at 259 in Zimbabwe and 56 in Malawi.
Thousands made the trek from inland Mozambique toward Beira, some walking along roads carved away by the raging waters. Hundreds of others arrived by boat, ferried by fishermen who plucked stranded people from patches of land that had been turned into islands. Many of the arrivals were children.
In Beira, people salvaged the metal strips of roofs that had been peeled away like the skin of a fruit. Downed trees littered the streets.
DISEASE FAERS MOUN FOR AFRICA CYCLONE SURVIVORS
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Survivors are struggling in desperate conditions with some still trapped on rooftops and those rescued in urgent need of food and medical supplies.
“The government is already setting up a cholera treatment centre to mitigate cholera. We should not be frightened when cholera issues arise,” added Correia, describing efforts to control the emerging humanitarian crisis.
“It is normal. It’s almost inevitable. Malaria, we know how it arises. We have lots of wetlands and we’re going to have malaria that is sure to come up (there).”
Wilfried Deliviai, a 19-year-old resident of Beira which was caught in the eye of the storm, said he felt “sorry for our town, our city, because we suffered a lot to build it”.
“Houses are completely destroyed, and some people don’t have money to rebuild their businesses – and many businesses are going to fail,” he told AFP.