Cyclone hit millions across Africa in record disaster - United Nations

April FrancisMar 20, 2019

Cyclone Idai touched down on the city of Beira on Thursday, March 14 with devastating winds, quickly becoming the most destructive storm of 2019.

Beira, which sits at the mouth of the Pungwe River, is also home to Mozambique's second-largest port, serving as gateway for imports to landlocked countries in southeast Africa.

The Red Cross described the damage on Beira, which felt the first impact of the cyclone, as horrifying.

"For the moment we have registered 84 deaths officially, but when we flew over the area. this morning to understand what's going on, everything indicates that we could register more than 1,000 deaths", Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi said in a nationwide address.

Hundreds more were reported missing and almost 1,000 homes destroyed in eastern Zimbabwe alone.

"Communities are isolated and bodies are floating" on the waters, he said.

The road between Beira and Chimoio has been damaged, leaving aid agencies cut off, unable to deliver supplies.

Four days after Tropical Cyclone Idai made landfall, torrential rains and powerful winds, combined with flash floods that have swept away roads and bridges, inflicted further pain on the two impoverished countries.

So far, it has dispatched more than five tonnes of emergency provisions to the affected areas.

Chimanimani district, which is near the border with Mozambique and bore the brunt of the cyclone, has been cut off from the rest of the country.

"Rescuers are scrambling to pull people trapped on rooftops and in trees to safety. Red Cross volunteers in Beira are also handing out chlorine so that people can purify water", said LeSueur.

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The majority of them are thought to be government workers, whose housing complex was completely engulfed by raging waters.

He said aid workers were anxious about the health risks.

Beira worldwide airport was closed because of cyclone damage but later reopened.

If the death toll estimated by Mr Nyusi is realised, it would be "one of the worst weather-related the southern hemisphere", a spokesperson for the UN's World Meteorological Organization said. The Beira hospital is severely damaged.

More than 215 people were killed by the storm in the three countries, including more than 80 in Zimbabwe's eastern Chimanimani region, according to official figures.

The death toll from Cyclone Idai rose to 98, while 217 people were confirmed missing as relief efforts intensified yesterday after the weather abated with officials trying to ascertain the devastation that has created a humanitarian crisis and left a trail of destruction. "We believe to this day many still lie unrecovered beneath mounds of debris that hit them with such overwhelming fury in their sleep that they stood no chance".

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

"It's a convergence of flooding, cyclones, dams breaking and making a potential wave: everything's in place so we get a flawless storm".

The U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe said the U.S. was also "mobilizing to provide support" to partners in the three affected countries, but provided no details.

Britain on Monday said it was giving six million pounds ($8 million, seven million euros) in emergency aid to Mozambique.

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