Hundreds of displaced families seek food and shelter in Kabul

(Reuters) – Hundreds of Afghan families who have been camping in searing heat at a Kabul park after the Taliban overran their provinces begged for food and shelter on Thursday, the most visible face of a humanitarian crisis unfolding in the war-torn country.

The Taliban’s swift takeover of Afghanistan this month, culminating in the capture of Kabul on Aug. 15, has thrown the country into turmoil.

While thousands of people have crowded the airport to try to flee, many others, like the families in the park, are stuck in limbo, unsure whether it is safer to try to go home or stay where they are.

“I’m in a bad situation,” said Zahida Bibi, a housewife, sitting under the blazing sun with her large family. “My head hurts. I feel very bad, there is nothing in my stomach.”

Ahmed Waseem, displaced from northern Afghanistan said those in the park were hoping the central government would pay attention. “We are in an open field and in the heat,” he said.

Afghanistan’s western-backed president and many other officials fled after government forces melted away in the face of the Taliban advance. The group has placed its members in ministries and ordered some officials back to work, but services are yet to resume, with banks still closed.

Phalwan Sameer, also from northern Afghanistan, said his family came to Kabul after the situation rapidly deteriorated in his home town.

“There (was) a lot of fighting and bombing as well. That’s why we came here. The houses were burned and we became homeless,” he said.

The World Health Organization said on Tuesday it has only enough medical supplies in Afghanistan to last a week after deliveries were blocked by restrictions at Kabul airport and the U.N. World Food Program said the country urgently needed $200 million in food aid.

The United Nations says more than 18 million people – over half of Afghanistan’s population – require aid and half of all Afghan children under the age of five already suffer from acute malnutrition amid the second drought in four years.

The Taliban have assured the U.N. that it can pursue humanitarian work as foreign governments weigh the issue of whether and how to support the population under hardline Islamist rule.

(Reporting by Reuters TV; writing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

‘We need food’: heavy rains lash Haiti quake survivors

By Laura Gottesdiener and Ricardo Arduengo

LES CAYES, Haiti (Reuters) -The search for survivors of a weekend earthquake that killed more than 1,400 people on Haiti resumed on Tuesday after an overnight storm battered thousands left homeless with heavy rain before the weather front moved on.

The quake brought down tens of thousands of buildings in the poorest country in the Americas, which is still recovering from a temblor 11 years ago that killed over 200,000 people, and flooding caused by the storm has complicated rescue efforts.

By Tuesday morning, only a light rain was falling over Les Cayes, the southern coastal city that bore the brunt of the 7.2 magnitude quake after Tropical Storm Grace had dumped torrential rains and caused flooding in at least one region.

At a tent city in Les Cayes containing many children and babies, over a hundred people scrambled to repair makeshift coverings made of wooden poles and tarps that were destroyed by Grace overnight. Some took cover under plastic sheets.

Mathieu Jameson, deputy head of the committee formed by the tent city residents, said hundreds of people there were in urgent need of food, shelter and medical care.

“We don’t have a doctor. We don’t have food. Every morning more people are arriving. We have no bathroom, no place to sleep. We need food, we need more umbrellas,” said Jameson, adding the tent city was still waiting for government aid.

Haiti’s latest natural disaster comes just over a month after Haiti was plunged into political turmoil by the assassination of President Jovenel Moise on July 7.

Several major hospitals were severely damaged, hampering humanitarian efforts, as were the focal points of many shattered communities, such as churches and schools.

Haitian authorities said on Monday that 1,419 deaths had been confirmed, with some 6,900 people injured.

As hopes began to dim of finding significant numbers of survivors among the wreckage, the storm impeded rescuers in the seaside city of Les Cayes, about 150 km (90 miles) west of the capital Port-au-Prince, which bore the brunt of the quake.

By early morning, Grace, which had been forecast to dump up to 15 inches (38 cm) of rain on parts of the country, had moved past Haiti and was advancing on the coast of Jamaica, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Centre.

Rescue workers were digging alongside residents through the rubble on Monday evening in a bid to reach bodies, though few voiced hope of finding anyone alive. A smell of dust and decomposing bodies permeated the air.

“We came from all over to help: from the north, from Port-au Prince, from everywhere,” said Maria Fleurant, a firefighter from northern Haiti.

Emergency workers pulled a blood-stained pillow from the rubble, followed by the corpse of a three-year-old boy who appeared to have died in his sleep during the earthquake.

Shortly after, as the rain intensified, the workers left.

RISING TOLL

With about 37,312 houses destroyed by the quake, according to Haitian authorities, and many of those still unexcavated, the death toll is expected to rise.

Vital Jaenkendy, who watched as a bulldozer shifted rubble from his collapsed apartment building, said eight residents had died and four were missing.

Jaenkendy and others have been sleeping under a tarpaulin on a dirt road nearby, and were hunkering down for the rains.

“When the storm comes, we’ll take shelter in car ports of the houses nearby, just until it passes, and then we’ll return to our place in the road,” he said.

Doctors battled in makeshift tents outside hospitals to save the lives of hundreds of injured, including young children and the elderly.

Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who was sworn in less then a month ago after Moise’s assassination, vowed to disburse humanitarian aid better than in the wake of the 2010 quake.

Though billions of dollars in aid money poured into Haiti after that quake and Hurricane Matthew in 2016, many Haitians say they saw scant benefits from the uncoordinated efforts: government bodies remained weak, amid persistent shortages of food and basic goods.

“The earthquake is a great misfortune that happens to us in the middle of the hurricane season,” Henry told reporters, adding that the government would not repeat “the same things” done in 2010.

(Reporting by Laura Gottesdiener and Ricardo Arduengo in Les Cayes, Haiti;Additional reporting by Herbert Villarraga and Robenson Sanon in Les Cayes; Editing by Daniel Flynn, Clarence Fernandez and Giles Elgood)

U.S. gives Myanmar $50 million in aid as humanitarian crisis worsens

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States said on Tuesday it was giving Myanmar more than $50 million in aid as surging COVID-19 infections worsened a humanitarian crisis in the Southeast Asian country already reeling after generals overthrew a democratically elected government earlier this year.

It is also providing Thailand with $5 million to cope with novel coronavirus, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, announced the funding during a visit to Thailand, he added.

In Myanmar, the U.S. funding will aid “those forced to flee violence and persecution” as well as help groups provide health care services in addition to essentials such as food, shelter and water, the State Department said.

“This funding comes at a critical point of rising humanitarian needs and will help mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on the lives of the people of both Thailand and Burma,” Price said. “In the wake of the February 1 coup, people from Burma continue to flee their homes due to ongoing violence.”

Six months after the army seized power, Myanmar’s economy has collapsed and its health system has buckled as coronavirus cases surged.

COVID-19 cases peaked in Myanmar last month, with 3,824 new daily infections now reported on average, Reuters data show. It has seen 333,127 infections and 12,014 coronavirus-related deaths since the pandemic began.

In Thailand, the average number of new COVID-19 infections are at their peak, with more than 20,400 cases reported daily, according to Reuters data.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

Moscow homeless shelter sees visitors triple in pandemic

MOSCOW (Reuters) – A Moscow charity helping the homeless has seen the number of people dropping in for a cup of tea or a bite to eat increase threefold because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Russia, with more than 4.2 million recorded cases of the virus, imposed lockdowns last spring and many people lost their jobs.

Roman Skorosov, who runs services for the homeless at Miloserdie, one of Russia’s best-known charities, said an average of 300 people now visit its shelter in Moscow every day to warm up, have a modest meal or take a shower.

“This past year has had an impact on the homeless,” Skorosov said. “Since the start of pandemic, the number of people visiting the shelter has tripled. This is due to job losses and other difficulties.”

The shelter, set up in a heated tent east of the city center, draws even more people during Moscow’s frigid winters. It gives them a place to have a steaming cup of tea or receive medical attention for minor injuries.

“There are definitely more calls from homeless people during the winter,” said Olga Pavlicheva, head of Moscow’s Elizaveta Glinka Centre for Social Adaptation.

(Reporting by Elena Ostrovskaya; Writing by Gabrielle T├ętrault-Farber; Editing by Giles Elgood)

In California heatwave, pandemic makes it hard to cool off

By Sharon Bernstein

RANCHO CORDOVA, Calif. (Reuters) – Before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down air-conditioned shopping malls and movie theaters, Debera Diaz and her adult son Joshua could have ducked inside to escape the 109 degree Fahrenheit heat that roasted their town near Sacramento last week.

So the pair, who have been living in Debera’s Honda Civic since her divorce and eviction a few months ago, were grateful to find a cooling center in city hall, complete with masks and a showing of the Meryl Streep movie “The Devil Wears Prada.”

“You can’t even go to the library,” said Diaz, 58. “It was really bad.”

The coronavirus pandemic presents vexing challenges for officials trying to protect residents from extreme weather conditions. Many places people usually go are closed, and public cooling centers like the one in Rancho Cordova can only accept half the normal number of people because of physical distancing requirements. Staying with relatives or friends is also difficult because of health concerns.

At the same time, however, officials worry that fears of catching the virus will keep some vulnerable people from seeking shelter from extreme heat, or even seeking out evacuation centers when wildfire threatens.

Protecting residents from extreme conditions is an issue that increasingly confronts cities and counties across the United States, as storms, heat and wildfire force thousands to seek refuge. Many experts are even more concerned about how to shelter vulnerable residents from extreme cold should the pandemic still be raging in the winter.

“It’s changed how we approach this as a city,” Rancho Cordova Mayor David Sander said of the pandemic. In previous years, churches and nonprofits opened their doors to people seeking shelter, but now many are either closed or unable to help, he said.

The city’s cooling center, set up in a large meeting room, can only accommodate 10 people before workers have to open an adjoining room, Sander said. That is half or less than its usual capacity.

The city is not taking the temperatures of everyone who comes in but asks anyone with a self-reported fever to stay away.

Among those most likely to suffer from extreme weather are people without homes like the Diazes, and the elderly on fixed incomes who might not have air conditioning or, if they do, may feel that they can’t afford to use it, said Mary Jo Flynn-Nevins, the emergency operations coordinator for Sacramento County.

Public agencies opened eight cooling centers in the county during last week’s heatwave, each able to accommodate between 10 and 40 people, she said.

With more than 5,500 people homeless in Sacramento County last year, and around 225,000 elderly, space for residents to shelter from harsh weather can quickly run short, Flynn-Nevins said.

Statewide, cooling centers were opened in 24 of California’s 58 counties, according to the California Department of Emergency Services.

The administration of Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom did not respond to requests for comment about the challenges of offering respite from the heat during the pandemic. But the state has encouraged residents to limit their use of electricity to avoid overtaxing the power grid and prompting blackouts.

When the temperature neared 100 Fahrenheit in the Sherman Oaks section of Los Angeles, Magdalay Arriola went to the East Valley Adult Center, where she sat with a water bottle and portable lunch cooler, reading a book.

About 10 people, 6 feet apart and wearing masks, sat in the air-conditioned room. Employees in protective suits cleaned tables and chairs with disinfectant.

“The AC is not working in my house, and I was getting really overheated,” said Arriola, 55. “Hopefully this is safe.”

Her worry that the cooling center may not be safe from COVID-19 is common, said Chad Carter, a spokesman for the Red Cross. People also worry they may spread or contract the virus if they seek shelter with friends or family.

But they also must recognize the dangers of soaring temperatures, which include heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

“Extreme heat is a risk just like COVID-19,” he said. “Extreme heat can be deadly.”

(Additional reporting by Lucy Nicholson; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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)

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)

Trump pledges strong federal support for hurricane-stricken Carolinas

U.S. President Donald Trump greets people while distributing food after Hurricane Florence in New Bern North Carolina, U.S., September 19, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

By Jeff Mason and Ernest Scheyder

HAVELOCK/WILMINGTON, N.C. (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday promised that North and South Carolina would have strong federal support as they recovered from the devastation of Hurricane Florence, whose floodwaters continue to threaten the region.

“We’re going to be there 100 percent,” Trump told officials at a briefing shortly after arriving at the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in Havelock, North Carolina. “… There will be nothing left undone. You’ll have everything you need.”

Trump, who has been criticized for his handling of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year, also thanked first responders for their work since Florence made landfall on Friday and recapped the efforts to get food to residents and restore power.

He was accompanied by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Brock Long, Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott of South Carolina.

Supplies including bottled water are seen waiting to be loading into airplanes and be delivered to areas hit by Hurricane Florence, now downgraded to a tropical depression, at the Raleigh Durham Airport in Raleigh, North Carolina, U.S., September 19, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Keane

Supplies including bottled water are seen waiting to be loading into airplanes and be delivered to areas hit by Hurricane Florence, now downgraded to a tropical depression, at the Raleigh Durham Airport in Raleigh, North Carolina, U.S., September 19, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Keane

More than 15,000 people remain in shelters and more than 200,000 customers are without power across North Carolina because of Florence, which came ashore as a Category 1 hurricane, according to state officials.

Although the storm is long gone, river flooding still poses a danger to the area. The Cape Fear River was expected to crest at 61.5 feet (19 meters), four times its normal height, on Wednesday in Fayetteville, a city of 200,000 near the Fort Bragg army base in the southern part of the state, according to the National Weather Service. That has disrupted efforts to restore power, clear roads and allow evacuated residents to go home.

“There is a strong potential that those who live within the 1-mile evacuation area of the Cape Fear River will be impacted by flooding,” the city said in a statement.

The city manager told CNN that 12,000 people are “in harm’s way.”

Florence has killed at least 36 people, including 27 in North Carolina, eight in South Carolina and one in Virginia. Two of the South Carolina victims were mental health patients who drowned on Tuesday when a van carrying them was swept away by floodwater.

A road is blocked by flood waters in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, now downgraded to a tropical depression, in Kinston, North Carolina, U.S., September 19, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

A road is blocked by flood waters in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, now downgraded to a tropical depression, in Kinston, North Carolina, U.S., September 19, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

SWOLLEN RIVERS

Thousands of rescues have taken place in the Carolinas. Fire and rescue crews were waiting to go into many areas to assist with structural damage resulting from Florence, which has dumped up to 36 inches (91 cm) of rain in parts of North Carolina since Thursday.

At least 16 rivers remained at a major flood stage, with three others set to crest in the coming days in North Carolina, the state said.

In the town of Fair Bluff, North Carolina, which has struggled to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Matthew in 2016, only about 50 residents remained on Tuesday, Fair Bluff Police Chief Chris Chafin told Reuters.

The town has largely been cut off by flooding from the still-rising Lumber River, which was expected to crest on Wednesday.

As Florence was bearing down on the Carolinas last week, Trump reignited the controversy over his handling of Maria by disputing the official death toll of 2,975 in the U.S. territory, which was compiled by public health experts at George Washington University. Trump said, without offering evidence, that Democrats had inflated the figure to make him look bad.

Maria also devastated the infrastructure of Puerto Rico, whose 3 million citizens are Americans but do not vote in presidential elections, and left much of the island without power for months. Critics said the Trump administration was slow to recognize the extent of the damage and slow to help.

Former basketball star Michael Jordan, a native of Wilmington, North Carolina, and the principal owner of the Charlotte Hornets of the National Basketball Association, donated $2 million to the Florence recovery effort, the team said.

(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder and Patrick Rucker; Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton in Washington, Bernie Woodall in Miami; Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Jessica Resnick-Ault and Barbara Goldberg in New York; Anna Mehler Paperny in North Carolina and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Writing by Dan Whitcomb and Bill Trott; Editing by David Stamp and Paul Simao)