Cyclone kills one, leaves trail of destruction across Mozambique

Damaged properties are pictured after Cyclone Kenneth swept through the region in Cabo Delgado province, Mozambique April 26, 2019 in this image obtained from social media. Picture taken from inside a vehicle. UNICEF via REUTERS

By Emma Rumney and Stephen Eisenhammer

JOHANNESBURG/LUANDA (Reuters) – Cyclone Kenneth killed at least one person and left a trail of destruction in northern Mozambique, destroying houses, ripping up trees and knocking out power, authorities said on Friday.

The cyclone brought storm surges and wind gusts of up to 280 km per hour (174 mph) when it made landfall on Thursday evening, after killing three people in the island nation of Comoros.

It was the most powerful storm on record to hit Mozambique’s northern coast and came just six weeks after Cyclone Idai battered the impoverished nation, causing devastating floods and killing more than 1,000 people across a swathe of southern Africa.

The World Food Programme warned that Kenneth could dump as much as 600 millimeters of rain on the region over the next 10 days – twice that brought by Cyclone Idai.

One woman in the port town of Pemba died after being hit by a falling tree, the Emergency Operations Committee for Cabo Delgado (COE) said in a statement, while another person was injured.

In rural areas outside Pemba, many homes are made of mud. In the main town on the island of Ibo, 90 percent of the houses were destroyed, officials said. Around 15,000 people were out in the open or in “overcrowded” shelters and there was a need for tents, food and water, they said.

There were also reports of a large number of homes and some infrastructure destroyed in Macomia district, a mainland district adjacent to Ibo.

A local group, the Friends of Pemba Association, had earlier reported that they could not reach people in Muidumbe, a district further inland.

Mark Lowcock, United Nations under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, warned the storm could require another major humanitarian operation in Mozambique.

“Cyclone Kenneth marks the first time two cyclones have made landfall in Mozambique during the same season, further stressing the government’s limited resources,” he said in a statement.

FLOOD WARNINGS

Shaquila Alberto, owner of the beach-front Messano Flower Lodge in Macomia, said there were many fallen trees there, and in rural areas people’s homes had been damaged. Some areas of nearby Pemba had no power.

“Even my workers, they said the roof and all the things fell down,” she said by phone.

Further south, in Pemba, Elton Ernesto, a receptionist at Raphael’s Hotel, said there were fallen trees but not too much damage. The hotel had power and water, he said, while phones rang in the background. “The rain has stopped,” he added.

However Michael Charles, an official for the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said heavy rains over the next few days were likely to bring a “second wave of destruction” in the form of flooding.

“The houses are not all solid, and the topography is very sandy,” Charles said.

In the days after Cyclone Idai, heavy inland rains prompted rivers to burst their banks, submerging entire villages, cutting areas off from aid and ruining crops. There were concerns the same could happen again in northern Mozambique.

Before Kenneth hit, the government and aid workers moved around 30,000 people to safer buildings such as schools, however authorities said that around 680,000 people were in the path of the storm.

(Reporting by Emma Rumney and Stephen Eisenhammer; Writing by Emma Rumney; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Alexandra Zavis)

Factbox: Cyclone Idai’s death toll rises to 847, hundreds of thousands displaced

FILE PHOTO: Survivors of cyclone Idai arrive at Coppa business centre to receive aid in Chipinge, Zimbabwe, March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo/File Photo

BEIRA, Mozambique (Reuters) – Hundreds of thousands of people are in need of food, water and shelter after Cyclone Idai battered Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

As of Sunday, at least 847 people had been reported killed by the storm, the flooding it caused and heavy rains before it hit. Following is an outline of the disaster, according to government and United Nations officials.

MOZAMBIQUE

Cyclone Idai landed on the night of March 14 near the port city of Beira, bringing heavy winds and rains. Two major rivers, the Buzi and the Pungue, burst their banks, submerging entire villages and leaving bodies floating in the water.

People killed: 602

People injured: 1,641

Houses damaged or destroyed: 239,682

Crops damaged: 715,378 hectares

People affected: 1.85 million

Confirmed cholera cases: 2,424

Confirmed cholera deaths: 5

ZIMBABWE

On March 16 the storm hit eastern Zimbabwe, where it flattened homes and flooded communities in the Chimanimani and Chipinge districts.

People killed: 185, according to government. The U.N. migration agency puts the death toll at 259.

People injured: 200

People displaced: 16,000 households

People affected: 250,000

MALAWI

Before it arrived, the storm brought heavy rains and flooding to the lower Shire River districts of Chikwawa and Nsanje in Malawi’s south. The rains continued after the storm hit, compounding the misery of tens of thousands of people.

People killed: 60

People injured: 672

People displaced: 19,328 households

People affected: 868,895

(Reporting by Emma Rumney and Stephen Eisenhammer in Beira, Tom Miles in Geneva, MacDonald Dzirutwe in Harare and Frank Phiri in Blantyre; Writing by Alexandra Zavis, Alexander Winning and Joe Bavier; Editing by Angus MacSwan and David Goodman)

Cholera cases jump to 138 in Mozambique’s Beira after cyclone

Medical staff wear protective masks at a cholera treatment centre set up in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai in Beira, Mozambique, March 29, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

By Stephen Eisenhammer

BEIRA, Mozambique (Reuters) – The number of confirmed cases of cholera in the cyclone-hit Mozambican port city of Beira jumped from five to 138 on Friday, as government and aid agencies battled to contain the spread of disease among the tens of thousands of victims of the storm.

Cyclone Idai smashed into Beira on March 14, causing catastrophic flooding and killing more than 700 people across three countries in southeast Africa.

Many badly affected areas in Mozambique and Zimbabwe are still inaccessible by road, complicating relief efforts and exacerbating the threat of infection.

Although there have been no confirmed cholera deaths in medical centers in Mozambique yet, at least two people died outside hospitals with symptoms including dehydration and diarrhea, the country’s environment minister Celso Correia said.

A Reuters reporter saw the body of a dead child being brought out of an emergency clinic in Beira on Wednesday. The child had suffered acute diarrhea, which can be a symptom of cholera.

“We expected this, we were prepared for this, we’ve doctors in place,” Correia told reporters.

The government said for the first time that there had been confirmed cholera cases on Wednesday.

Mozambique’s National Disaster Management Institute said the local death toll from the tropical storm had increased to 493 people, from 468 previously.

That takes the total death toll across Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi to 738 people, with many more still missing.

“Stranded communities are relying on heavily polluted water. This, combined with widespread flooding and poor sanitation, creates fertile grounds for disease outbreaks, including cholera,” the International Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement.

In Geneva, the World Health Organization’s Tarik Jasarevic said 900,000 doses of oral cholera vaccine were expected to arrive on Monday.

Cholera is endemic to Mozambique, which has had regular outbreaks over the past five years. About 2,000 people were infected in the last outbreak, which ended in February 2018, according to the WHO.

But the scale of the damage to Beira’s water and sanitation infrastructure, coupled with its dense population, have raised fears that another epidemic would be difficult to put down.

(Reporting by Stephen Eisenhammer in Beira and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing Alexander Winning; Editing by Alison Williams)

Amid ruined lives, Mozambique’s cyclone survivors face cholera

Locals look on as a chopper takes off after they received food aid from a South African National Defence Force (SANDF) helicopter in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai in Nhamatanda village, near Beira, Mozambique, March 26, 2019. Picture taken March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

By Emma Rumney and Stephen Eisenhammer

BEIRA, Mozambique (Reuters) – Dozens of fragile patients poured into a clinic in the wrecked Mozambican port city of Beira on Wednesday, as the government said it had confirmed the first five cases of cholera in the wake of deadly Cyclone Idai.

A general view of houses seen from the air near Nhamatanda village, Beira, Mozambique, following Cyclone Idai, March 26, 2019. Picture taken March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

A general view of houses seen from the air near Nhamatanda village, Beira, Mozambique, following Cyclone Idai, March 26, 2019. Picture taken March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Thousands of people were trapped for more than a week in submerged villages without access to clean water after the cyclone smashed into Mozambique on March 14, causing catastrophic flooding. Relief efforts have increasingly focused on containing outbreaks of waterborne and infectious diseases.

In Munhava in central Beira, doctors and nurses at a newly set up treatment center said they are treating around 140 patients a day for diarrhea. Many of the patients arrive too weak to walk.

A Reuters reporter saw two men carrying an unconscious woman from a rickshaw into the clinic, trying to cover her naked body with a sheet.

Inside, those too ill to sit lay on concrete benches attached to intravenous drips. Mothers were perched on plastic chairs in the courtyard, trying to get their children to drink rehydration salts from green cups.

“He won’t take it,” said Marisa Salgado, 22, holding her boy, aged 1-1/2, who stared with glazed eyes.

It was the second time she had been to the clinic this week, Salgado said. Her child’s diarrhea returned as soon as she got home, despite the chlorine solution nurses gave her to purify their water.

“I’m scared. I don’t know what to do,” she said.

Cholera is endemic to Mozambique, which has had regular outbreaks over the past five years. About 2,000 people were infected in the last outbreak, which ended in February 2018, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

But the scale of the damage to Beira’s water and sanitation infrastructure coupled with its dense population have raised fears that an epidemic now would be difficult to put down.

A relative writes the name of a one-year-old child who died at a health centre dealing with water borne diseases onto a a cross in Beira, Mozambique, March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

A relative writes the name of a one-year-old child who died at a health centre dealing with water borne diseases onto a a cross in Beira, Mozambique, March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Ussene Isse, national director of medical assistance at the Health Ministry, said he expected cholera to spread beyond the five cases confirmed as of Wednesday morning.

“When you have one case, you have to expect more cases in the community,” he told reporters. Health workers are battling 2,700 cases of acute diarrhea, which could be a symptom of cholera, Isse added.

Health workers apply the same treatment for acute diarrhea or cholera, with severe cases requiring rapid rehydration through intravenous fluids.

Such diseases are another threat in the aftermath of Idai, which tore through Mozambique and into neighboring Zimbabwe and Malawi, killing more than 700 people and displacing hundreds of thousands of others.

Cholera is spread by faeces in sewage-contaminated water or food, and outbreaks can develop quickly in a humanitarian crisis where sanitation systems are disrupted. It can kill within hours if left untreated.

GRAPHIC: Cyclone Idai’s destructive path – https://tmsnrt.rs/2HxKqdk

CHILDREN DYING

Lin Lovue, 27, said he had rushed his son to the clinic late on Tuesday after a day of diarrhea. Within an hour of getting there, the child died.

“The biggest challenge is organization,” said a coordinator at the clinic who did not want to be named. “The health system was completely broken after the storm and we have to re-establish capacity fast.”

Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), which runs the emergency center at Munhava, has set up two others in Beira and is providing consultations via mobile clinics in several neighborhoods.

Outside the clinic, two medics dressed in blue overalls lifted the body of a 1-year-old child wrapped in a white bag on to the back of an open-top truck. The father laid his child down on a bamboo mat as someone wrote the baby’s name on a wooden cross.

The WHO is sending 900,000 doses of oral cholera vaccine to affected areas from a global stockpile. The shipment is expected to arrive in Mozambique later this week.

For now families, like that of Nelson Vasco, are being given a chlorine solution to purify their water. Three of Vasco’s children were discharged on Wednesday after recovering from severe diarrhea.

Vasco and his wife and mother carried the frail children on their backs as they walked through the mud to reach their two-room house in Goto, a poor community in central Beira.

Their home lost its roof in the storm and although Vasco managed to salvage some of the metal sheeting, the rain still comes in. But the biggest danger right now is the water from the mains supply.

Like most in this community of mud-brick homes, the family do not have running water, instead buying it from a neighbor who does. But they now worry it has been contaminated.

The death toll in Mozambique from Cyclone Idai has risen to 468, Mozambican disaster management official Augusta Maita said. That takes the total number of deaths in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi to 707 people, with many more missing.

(Additional reporting by Manuel Mucari in Maputo and Stephanie Ulmer-Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Alexander Winning and Joe Bavier; Editing by Louise Heavens, Janet Lawrence and Frances Kerry)

Nearly 2 million Mozambicans in need after cyclone: U.N.

School children and a man carrying food aid cross a river after Cyclone Idai at Coppa business centre in Chipinge, Zimbabwe, March 26,2019. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

By Emma Rumney and Stephen Eisenhammer

BEIRA, Mozambique (Reuters) – Cyclone Idai’s deadly hit has left some 1.85 million people in need of assistance in Mozambique, the U.N. humanitarian agency said on Tuesday, as relief workers assess the scale of the disaster and determine what help is most urgently needed.

“Some will be in critical, life threatening situations,” Sebastian Rhodes Stampa, coordinator in the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs, said of the affected people.

“We’re now going out on the ground, dropping people off from helicopters to determine what the critical needs are.”

Idai flattened homes and provoked widespread flooding after slamming into Mozambique near the port of Beira on March 14. It then ripped through neighboring Zimbabwe and Malawi, killing at least 686 people across the three southern African countries.

Survivors of cyclone Idai cross a temporary bridge as they arrive at Coppa business centre to receive aid in Chipinge, Zimbabwe, March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Survivors of cyclone Idai cross a temporary bridge as they arrive at Coppa business centre to receive aid in Chipinge, Zimbabwe, March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Mozambique – which has a population of around 30 million – was hit hardest, with tens of thousands of homes destroyed and hundreds of thousands of people displaced across an area of some 3,000 square km (1,200 square miles) – roughly the size of Luxembourg.

Receding flood waters have allowed greater access and a greater sense of how much people have lost. Thousands of people, stranded for more than a week by the flooding, are now being moved to safer shelters.

Increasingly, the relief focus has turned to preventing or containing what many believe will be inevitable outbreaks of malaria and cholera.

Though no cholera cases have yet been confirmed, health workers on the ground have reported an upsurge in cases of diarrhea – a symptom of the disease.

“We are testing as we go,” said Rob Holden, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) incident manager in the capital Maputo. “But nonetheless we are treating acute watery diarrhea, it’s the same as treating cholera. That’s just the diagnosis.”

BIG, DENSE POPULATION

Dozens of people queued in front of a clinic in Beira’s Munhava district on Tuesday, as nurses wearing surgical masks out a chlorine solution to prevent the spread of diseases like cholera.

“There is a big population, dense population in Beira,” said Gert Verdonck, emergency coordinator for Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF). “Of course any spread of any kind of epidemic will be a lot quicker here.”

The WHO is dispatching 900,000 doses of oral cholera vaccine from a global stockpile. The shipment is expected to arrive within 10 days, and a first round of vaccinations will target 100,000 people.

Cholera is spread by feces in sewage-contaminated water or food, and outbreaks can develop quickly in a humanitarian crisis where sanitation systems are disrupted. It can kill within hours if left untreated.

Survivors of cyclone Idai arrive at Coppa business centre to receive aid in Chipinge, Zimbabwe, March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Survivors of cyclone Idai arrive at Coppa business centre to receive aid in Chipinge, Zimbabwe, March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) has designated Mozambique a level three emergency, placing it on a par with Syria, Yemen and South Sudan. The agency is preparing to feed 1.7 million people in Mozambique.

The U.N. is appealing for $282 million to fund the first three months of the disaster response in Mozambique, and a total of $337 million. So far, only 2 percent of that amount has been funded.

SEARCHING THROUGH RUBBLE

In Zimbabwe, where 179 people have died, another 329 people were still unaccounted for on Monday.

In hard-hit Chimanimani district, villagers used hoes and shovels to dig through debris on Tuesday and search for missing relatives believed buried by the mudslides unleashed by the cyclone.

One family has spent a week digging day and night for four relatives, in what was once a settlement of 500 people but has been reduced to rubble.

Large rocks, some more than two meters (six feet) high, which rolled from a nearby mountain at high speed are what remains after the storm swept away a police camp, houses and an open market.

“I am an orphan now and I am so much in pain because I lost my brother who looked after me. He was more of a father to me,” said Sarah Sithole, 32, whose policeman brother was washed away while on night duty at the police station.

“We will continue searching until we find him and bury him. We will not rest,” she said, her hands and feet covered with red soil.

Around 95 percent of roads in affected districts have been damaged, impeding access to rescuers with earth moving equipment. Zimbabwe has requested for search dogs from South Africa to help look for those missing, a local government official said.

The WFP said it will aim to distribute food assistance to 732,000 people in Malawi and 270,000 in Zimbabwe.

(Additional reporting by Gift Sukhala in Chimanimani, Zimbabwe, MacDonald Dzirutwe in Harare and Stephanie Ulmer-Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by William Maclean and Frances Kerry)

Rescuers hope to reach more cyclone victims as roads reopen in Mozambique

Aid workers offload maize meal for victims of Cyclone Idai at Siverstream Estates in Chipinge, Zimbabwe, March 24, 2019. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

By Emma Rumney

BEIRA, Mozambique (Reuters) – Rescuers said they would reach hundreds of people on Monday still stranded more than a week after a powerful cyclone struck Mozambique and swathes of southeast Africa, as roads started to reopen.

Cyclone Idai lashed Mozambique’s port city of Beira with winds of up to 170 kph (105 mph) around midnight on March 14, then moved inland to Zimbabwe and Malawi, flattening buildings and killing at least 657 people across the three countries.

An evacuee from Buzi village carries her belongings as she arrives at a displacement center near the airport, after Cyclone Idai, in Beira, Mozambique, March 25, 2019. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

An evacuee from Buzi village carries her belongings as she arrives at a displacement center near the airport, after Cyclone Idai, in Beira, Mozambique, March 25, 2019. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

“We are more organized now, after the chaos that we’ve had, so we’re delivering food and shelter to more people today,” Mozambique’s Land and Environment Minister Celso Correia told reporters.

Correia said the number of people in makeshift camps had risen by 18,000 to 128,000 since Sunday, most of them in the Beira area.

Communities near Nhamatanda, around 100 km northwest of Beira and where some people haven’t received aid for days, would receive assistance on Monday, he added.

The cyclone and the heavy rains that followed hampered aid efforts and blocked deliveries of food and other essentials from Beira, which is an important gateway to landlocked countries in the region.

The water covering vast tracts of land west of the port has been receding, but the size of the disaster zone makes getting aid to the neediest difficult.

Aid workers distributed maize meal in the Chipinge district of eastern Zimbabwe – one of the areas where the cyclone wrought major destruction – while residents struggled without access to power or piped water.

“We lost all our perishables after Cyclone Idai,” Chipinge resident Kudakwashe Mapungwana said. “Since then we have no electricity at all and women are busy buying charcoal which is very expensive.”

Sebastian Rhodes Stampa, from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said cases of diarrhea in Mozambique were increasing and they were keeping a close watch out for any outbreak of cholera.

“It’s a killer,” Rhodes Stampa said of cholera, naming the infection as one of his biggest concerns, alongside more flooding. But the weather for the next two weeks looked “pretty good” and dam releases were well-controlled, he added.

Correia said the death toll in Mozambique remained roughly unchanged at 447 on Monday. In Zimbabwe the tropical storm has killed at least 154 people, according to the government, while 56 died in Malawi.

(Additional reporting by Stephen Eisenhammer in Beira, and Philimon Bulawayo in Chipinge and MacDonald Dzirutwe in Harare; Writing by Alexander Winning; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Andrew Heavens)

Hunger, disease stalk Africa cyclone survivors, U.N. sees 1.7 million affected

Survivors of Cyclone Idai, listen to a volunteer from Mozambique Red Cross, after arriving to an evacuation centre in Beira, Mozambique, March 21, 2019. Denis Onyodi/Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre/Handout via REUTERS

By Emma Rumney

BEIRA, Mozambique (Reuters) – Hundreds of thousands of people scrambled for shelter, food and water across a swathe of southern Africa on Friday after a cyclone killed hundreds and swept away homes and roads, testing relief efforts for survivors facing a growing risk of cholera.

Cyclone Idai battered Beira, a low-lying port city of 500,000 residents, with strong winds and torrential rains last week, before moving inland to neighboring Zimbabwe, where it flattened homes and flooded communities, and Malawi.

Idai killed 242 people in Mozambique and 259 in Zimbabwe, and numbers were expected to rise, relief agencies said. In Malawi, 56 died in heavy rains before the onset of Idai.

As survivors gathered in informal camps and health officials warned of growing danger from measles and cholera, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said the situation on the ground was critical with no electricity or running water.

“Hundreds of thousands of children need immediate help” she said, estimating 1.7 million people were affected by the storm.

Around 45 km (28 miles) west of Beira, in Guara Guara village, the government set up a makeshift camp for people rescued nearby, with little water and no toilets.

Most people were outside in blazing sun, or on patches of shade cast by trees. At a nearby school, elderly women curled up on their side on the dirt floor, amongst bits of rubble.

“The help is coming, but it’s coming very slowly,” said Esther Zinge, 60, from near the town of Buzi, adding that what did arrive had to be given to children first.

“The conditions are terrible, and more people keep coming.”

On a beach in Beira, where the Red Cross estimated 90 of the city was damaged or destroyed, survivors clutching infants and bags disembarked from rescue boats beside a ship marooned on the sand by the storm, and began receiving Red Cross help.

A man looks on atop his house after Cyclone Idai in Buzi district outside Beira, Mozambique, March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

A man looks on atop his house after Cyclone Idai in Buzi district outside Beira, Mozambique, March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

“CONDITIONS TERRIBLE”

In Zimbabwe’s Coppa Rusitu Valley, a township in Chimanimani, near the Mozambican border, hundreds of homes were flattened by large rocks and mudslide from a nearby mountain, burying some residents, who never stood a chance as the cyclone unleashed its fury at night when most were sleeping.

Relatives and rescuers were digging through the debris, hoping to find bodies, but some of the rocks were so big they need blasting, a Reuters witness said. Most people lost relatives, workmates or friends in the township, which also housed government workers, including police.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Thursday night said he had come face to face with horrific accounts of people grieving the loss of family and friends in Chimanimani.

Some survivors have taken refuge at churches and centers offering temporary shelter as they deal with the trauma of their losses while private citizens, international aid agencies and the government rushed humanitarian aid to affected areas.

Energy Minister Joram Gumbo said the pipeline bringing fuel from Beira had not been affected by the cyclone but the docking terminals at Beira port had been damaged.

He said Zimbabwe had 62 days supply of petrol and 32 days for diesel, which is in short supply and has led to long queues in the capital. In Mutare city, near Mozambique, diesel shortages were worse, according to a Reuters witness.

A girl stops to look as a man walks past carrying luggage on his head after Cyclone Idai in Buzi district outside Beira, Mozambique, March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

A girl stops to look as a man walks past carrying luggage on his head after Cyclone Idai in Buzi district outside Beira, Mozambique, March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

FEW HELICOPTERS

In Beira, Saviano Abreu of the U.N. humanitarian arm OCHA, said the main problem with getting aid to relief camps outside of Beira is they could be reached only by helicopter, since floods had cut off roads, and helicopters were few.

Large parts of the city lacked running water, but everyone affected was getting 20 liters of water for washing, cooking and drinking.

Briefing his team late on Thursday night, Connor Hartnady, rescue operations task force leader for Rescue South Africa, said Beira residents were becoming fed up with shortages.

“There have been three security incidents today, all food related,” he told his team, without giving further details.

Commenting on Beira, U.N. humanitarian spokesman Jens Laerke said if people were desperate to get aid, that should be treated as part of the community response and not as a security matter.

“These are desperate people,” Laerke said. “I don’t think anybody would blame a desperate mother or father who have children who do not have clean water to drink or food to eat who grab it from wherever they find it in a shop.”

The storm’s rains caused the Buzi and Pungwe rivers, whose mouths are in the Beira area, to burst their banks.

Roads into Beira were cut off by the storm, and most of the city remains without power. The Red Cross has estimated 90 percent of the city was damaged or destroyed in the storm.

(Reporting by Emma Rumney; Additional reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe in Harare, Philimon Bulawayo in Chimanimani, Zimbabwe,; Editing by Tiisetso Motsoeneng, Raissa Kasolowsky, William Maclean)

Aid workers fight clock to rescue more African cyclone victims, death toll jumps

Stranded locals look on during floods after Cyclone Idai, in Buzi district, outside Beira, Mozambique, March 21, 2019. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

By Emma Rumney

BEIRA, Mozambique (Reuters) – Rescue workers plucked more survivors from trees and roofs to safety on Thursday, a week after a cyclone ripped through southern Africa and triggered devastating floods that have killed hundreds of people and displaced hundreds of thousands.

Helicopters whirred above the turbid, reddish-brown flood waters searching for people to ferry back to the port city of Beira, the main headquarters for the huge rescue operation in Mozambique.

Members of the rescue team offload a body retrieved from areas flooded in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai in Chimanimani, Zimbabwe, March 21, 2019. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Members of the rescue team offload a body retrieved from areas flooded in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai in Chimanimani, Zimbabwe, March 21, 2019. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

The death toll in that country was now 242, Land and Environment Minister Celso Correia said, adding that the number of dead was rising as rescue workers found bodies that had been hidden by now-receding floodwaters.

Correia told a news conference earlier on Wednesday that around 15,000 people, many of them very ill, still need to be rescued. “Our biggest fight is against the clock,” he said, adding that 3,000 people had been rescued so far.

In neighboring Zimbabwe, the death toll from Cyclone Idai jumped to 139. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), which is coordinating food drops, said 200,000 Zimbabweans would need urgent food aid for three months. In Malawi 56 people were confirmed dead.

“This is a human catastrophe of the highest order,” businessman Graham Taylor told Reuters, saying he had seen “hundreds of bodies that had been washed up by the floodwater” while trying to return home after visiting his son in Beira.

“What struck me first was the number of people on the rooftops and in trees. You could hear communities shouting for help – for hours, for days,” said Taylor, who also described meeting people on the badly damaged highways heading toward the devastated areas in search of family members.

“It was a humbling experience,” he said. “I saw no sign of government assistance.”

Even when people are safely out of the floods, the situation is dire. Some 30 percent of the 88 government centers set up by the government for displaced people still have no food, Environment Minister Correia said.

Private TV station STV put the number of people still trapped in affected areas of Mozambique at 350,000 and said as many as 60,000 were believed stuck on roofs, trees and other higher places. The numbers could not be independently confirmed.

People affected by Cyclone Idai walk in Beira, Mozambique March 20, 2019 in this picture obtained from social media on March 21, 2019. CARE International/Josh Estey via REUTERS

People affected by Cyclone Idai walk in Beira, Mozambique March 20, 2019 in this picture obtained from social media on March 21, 2019. CARE International/Josh Estey via REUTERS

‘PLEASE PRAY FOR US’

Idai lashed Beira with winds of up to 170 km per hour (105 miles per hour) a week ago, then moved inland to Zimbabwe and Malawi, flattening buildings and putting the lives of millions at risk.

The cyclone’s torrential rains caused the Buzi River and the Pungue River, whose mouths are in the Beira area, to flood their banks. The scale of the flooding is huge – the U.N. satellite agency says floodwaters covered 2,165 square km (835 square miles) on March 20.

With more rain forecast for Beira on Thursday, Christian worshippers sang hymns on an empty tract of land where a pulpit was all that remained of their Pentecostal church.

“Here in Beira, all the churches have collapsed from this cyclone… Oh my dear brothers, please pray for us,” said Pastor Luis Semente. “Only God can restore this.”

A priority for Thursday was pushing into flooded areas that had not yet been surveyed, said Connor Hartnady, leader of a South African rescue task force.

Rescuers also want to move people from a basketball stadium near the Buzi River – one of the worst affected areas – to a village on higher ground, where aid organizations are setting up a temporary camp with a capacity of up to 600, he said.

Days after the disaster struck, aid agencies were struggling to meet the needs of displaced people.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said it was sending two emergency units to Beira that would provide drinking water for up to 15,000 people and sanitation facilities for 20,000 people, as well as shelter kits.

“More help is needed, and we are continuing to do all we can to bring in more resources and to reach more people,” said Jamie LeSueur, the IFRC’s operations head in Mozambique.

The WFP stepped up airdrops of high-energy biscuits and water purification tablets to isolated pockets of people stranded by the floodwaters.

The U.S. military stands ready to help the cyclone rescue effort, a representative of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) said, according to the minutes of a humanitarian meeting held on Wednesday. China, a major investor in Mozambique, also expressed its willingness to help, Portugal’s Lusa news agency reported.

The Christian charity Tearfund said the timing of the floods was disastrous, with harvesting due to start in coming weeks. Even before the floods, 5.3 million people had been experiencing food shortages, said its Zimbabwe director, Earnest Maswera.

Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi, who declared three days of national mourning starting on Wednesday, has said the eventual death toll from the cyclone and ensuing floods could rise to more than 1,000.

Mozambique’s tiny $13 billion economy is still recovering from a currency collapse and debt default.

The cyclone knocked out Mozambican electricity exports to South Africa, exacerbating power cuts that are straining businesses in Africa’s most industrialized economy.

(Additional reporting by Nqobile Dludla in Johannesburg, MacDonald Dzirutwe in Harare, Philimon Bulawayo in Chimanimani, Zimbabwe, Manuel Mucari in Maputo, Tom Miles in Geneva and Catarina Demony in Lisbon; Writing by Gareth Jones and Frances Kerry; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky, Frances Kerry and Peter Graff)

Death toll in Mozambique cyclone, floods could surpass 1,000: president

Flooding caused by Cyclone Idai is seen in Chipinge, Zimbabwe, March 16, 2019 in this still image taken from social media video obtained March 17, 2019. Tony Saywood via REUTERS

MAPUTO/HARARE (Reuters) – The number of people killed in a powerful storm and preceding floods in Mozambique could exceed 1,000, the president said on Monday, putting the potential death toll greatly more than current figures.

Only 84 deaths have been confirmed so far in Mozambique as a result of Cyclone Idai, which has also left a trail of death and destruction across Zimbabwe and Malawi, with vast areas of land flooded, roads destroyed and communication wiped out.

Speaking on Radio Mocambique, President Filipe Nyusi said he had flown over the affected region, where two rivers had overflowed. Villages had disappeared, he said, and bodies were floating in the water.

“Everything indicates that we can register more than one thousand deaths,” he said.

The cyclone has also killed 89 people in Zimbabwe, an official said on Monday, while the death toll in Malawi from heavy rains and flooding stood at 56 as of last week. No new numbers had been released following the cyclone’s arrival in the country.

Caroline Haga, a senior International Federation of the Red Cross official who is in Beira, said the situation could be far worse in the surrounding areas, which remained completely cut off by road and where houses were not as sturdy.

Nyusi flew over areas that were otherwise accessible, and some of which had been hit by flooding before Cyclone Idai.

RESCUE EFFORT

In Beira, Mozambique’s fourth-largest city and home to 500,000 people, a large dam had burst, further complicating rescue efforts.

Large swathes of land were completely submerged, and in some streets people waded through knee-high water around piles of mangled metal and other debris.

In the early hours of Monday morning, rescuers launched dinghies onto chest-high waters, navigating through reeds and trees – where some people perched on branches to escape the water – to rescue those trapped by the flooding.

Meanwhile, rescuers were struggling to reach people in Zimbabwe’s Chimanimani district, cut off from the rest of the country by torrential rains and winds of up to 170 km per hour that swept away roads, homes and bridges and knocked out power and communication lines.

Zimbabwean information ministry official Nick Mangwana told Reuters the number of confirmed deaths throughout the country was now 89. The body count is expected to rise.

Many people had been sleeping in the mountains since Friday, after their homes were flattened by rock falls and mudslides or washed away by torrential rains.

The Harare government has declared a state of disaster in areas affected by the storm. Zimbabwe, a country of 15 million people, was already suffering a severe drought that has wilted crops.

SOUTHEASTERN AFRICA GATEWAY

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 director of a company that jointly manages the port, Cornelder, based in the Netherlands, said the port had been closed since last Wednesday but would hopefully resume operations on Tuesday.

Two cranes would be working and the company had two large generators and enough fuel for now, though damage to access routes and roads further inland was more likely to cause a problem, said the director, who asked not to be named.

The fuel pipeline running from Beira to Zimbabwe was believed to be intact, the person said, though communication was still very patchy and therefore the situation at the port remained uncertain.

In February 2000, Cyclone Eline hit Mozambique when it was already devastated by its worst floods in three decades. It killed 350 people and made 650,000 homeless across southern Africa, also hitting Zimbabwe.

(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe in Zimbabwe and Manuel Mucari in Mozambique; Additional reporting by Emma Rumney in Johannesburg; Editing by Angus MacSwan)