Cyclone in southern Africa: at least 356 people dead, thousands of people blocked

Cyclone en Afrique australe: au moins 356 morts, des milliers de personnes bloquées

“It is necessary to rescue them, pull them out of there”: thousands of people were still stranded in flooded areas on Thursday in southern Africa, waiting anxiously for the relief efforts following the passage last week of hurricane Idai, which has killed at least 356 people dead.

In Mozambique, 15,000 people need to be “rescued immediately,” said the mozambican minister for the Environment, Celso Correia. “They are stuck on houses, on roofs,” he explained to AFP from Beira (centre), the country’s second largest city, devastated by cyclone Idai.

These 15,000 people “are not in form. They are in life (…) but we need to rescue them, get them out of there,” he said.

“It is a fight against the clock. Every minute counts,” he insisted, while “thousands of others are blocked on higher areas, on small islands”.

The balance sheet of the cyclone Idai, which was swept at the end of last week, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, climbed again on Thursday to reach 356 dead, according to official sources.

At least 217 people have died in Mozambique and 139 in Zimbabwe, two countries where the survivors continued Thursday to bury their dead.

In the beginning of the week, the mozambican president Filipe Nyusi had been warned that the toll could climb to more than 1,000 deaths.

“We can’t believe that one is still alive, ( … ). We got very scared when the storm began,” testified a survivor of 16 years, Mariamo Humberto, still in shock.

“The other years, I have known storms. But this is the first time I saw it,” said Julia Luis, mother of three children who has lost everything. “I have to start my life,” she added in the village of Praia Nova (centre) in ruins.

– Recession –

In total, 350,000 people are currently living in flooded areas in Mozambique, based in Maputo. Zimbabwe’s neighbour, these are 200,000 people who are affected by the floods and the cyclone Idai, according to the united Nations.

“This is the worst humanitarian crisis in the recent history of Mozambique”, said the international Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies (IFRC).

The recession, however, began in Mozambique, was found Thursday, Celso Correia. “In some places, the water level was up to 11 meters, and it has dropped by three metres,” he said.

With the calm weather, the emergency services managed to save Wednesday, some 3,000 people blocked on land at heath close, surrounded by water, on rooftops or from trees, said the minister.

But given the magnitude of the disaster are still struggling to respond to the enormous needs.

“We haven’t eaten anything,” said Mariamo Humberto to Pariah Nova.

The world food Programme (WFP), which has come in aid to 600,000 people in the region, has started its distributions of food in Beira and its surroundings and in the town of Dondo, about 45 km to the north-east. But the flooded area is huge.

“We are working 24 hours on 24 to ensure that we provide food and medicines” disaster “in order to avoid deaths due to the diseases,” explained Celso Correia.

– Risk of cholera –

“The displacement of a large number of people and the flooding caused by cyclone Idai significantly increase the risks of malaria, typhoid and cholera,” said Matshidiso Moeti, regional director for Africa of the world health Organization (WHO).

In Beira, a city of half a million inhabitants, the main hospital, of which the roof was partially damaged, can only operate 40% of its capacity.

But in the streets, life returned very gradually over Thursday, a week after the passage of the cyclone.

Cars were running again on some of the roads become passable. The telephone network, completely interrupted for several days, working again intermittently.

Zimbabwe on the other hand, the conditions in the district of Chimanimani (is) remains “very bad”, according to the spokesperson of the WFP, Hervé Verhoosel.

“About 90% of the district has been damaged in a significant way”, he added. At least eight bridges and a hundred houses have been destroyed in this mountainous region.

The arrival of the cyclone had been preceded for several days of very heavy rains in Mozambique and Malawi, killing at least 122 people dead. Malawi has, however, been spared by Idai.