TROPICAL CYCLONE IDAI RAVAGES SOUTHERN AFRICA
By Paul Ndiho
The death toll from Cyclone Idai has climbed to over 750 in the three southern African countries hit by the powerful storm. International aid agencies are scrambling to reach survivors with needed relief and to stop a growing humanitarian crisis.
The United Nations and international aid agencies are rushing food, medicine, and other emergency relief supplies to the survivors of Tropical Cyclone Idai that ripped through southern Africa, killing hundreds while destroying buildings and farmland across Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi.
In Mozambique, the death toll from Cyclone Idai that slammed the port city of Beira and the surrounding areas has reached nearly 450 and is still climbing. The number of people in makeshift camps has also risen from 18,000 to 128,000, according to the nation’s Land and Environment Minister Celso Correia.
“So we have an update of the number of lives that were lost. It has increased from 417 to 446 lives. We also have many people that were affected which is 531,000. These are preliminary numbers as soon as we do our survey of the ground we will be able to give you updates on this. To say that the people that are safe in our camps are almost 110,000 people already in the camps.”
The tropical storm made landfall in Beira on March 15 with high winds and lashing rain that lasted for more than nine hours, leaving the low-lying city of 600,000 isolated.
International aid organizations have stepped up their daily deliveries of aid on cargo planes from around the world. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says they are preparing to deploy three large field hospitals, as early as next week.
The United Nations Food Program is ramping up its airdrops to isolated pockets of people stranded by the floodwaters and delivered food parcels to displaced families sheltering in schools and other public buildings northeast of Beira.
Cyclone Idai also lashed Eastern Zimbabwe, killing more than 250, a toll that actually could be as much higher. Worst hit was Chi-mani-mani in Manicaland, an eastern province which borders Mozambique. UN agencies and the Red Cross have rushed emergency food and medicine by helicopter to the stricken countries. Some families are burying their dead in damp graves as injured survivors filled up the hospitals.
One resident told VOA, 26 people from the area have already been buried. Tinashe Sithole says he walked a long distance after his village had been cut off by rushing floodwaters.
“I have walked about 28 kilometers (17 miles) from Ngangu location up to Skyline. There is no bridge; all bridges were swept away, even the biggest bridge at Charter – that is the Nyahode Bridge – was swept away.”
Meanwhile, in Malawi, 56 people have died and a large number of schools in the flood-affected areas of southern Malawi have been closed. Some are being used as evacuation centers. Children are studying outside, under trees, after floods destroyed their classrooms.
“Most of the learners, they are not coming to school, because the rivers are flooded and they are unable to cross those rivers to come to school.”
The extent and severity of the current flooding in southern Malawi are overwhelming relief organizations, leaving many struggling to respond in hard-to-reach areas. Malawi officials say the situation is becoming unbearable, given the unprecedented levels of destruction.
“We don’t have enough food at all. So we need a lot of food. We don’t know, perhaps the Lorries we see here, they are to be distributed to us. We don’t know, because up to now we haven’t received any food at all.”
Weather forecasters are expecting more rain to fall in the region and cyclone affected families can only hope for quicker intervention from the international aid community.