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Cyclone Idai deaths could exceed 1,000 as need for aid grows

International agencies have stressed the need for humanitarian assistance.

People queue to receive food in Nhamatanda, about 60 miles west of Beira, Mozambique (AP)
People queue to receive food in Nhamatanda, about 60 miles west of Beira, Mozambique (AP)

The death toll following Cyclone Idai in Mozambique could exceed the 1,000 predicted by the country’s president earlier this week, officials said.

The secretary-general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Mozambique, Elhadj As Sy, stressed the need for humanitarian assistance, and added: “We will be seeing more in the weeks and months ahead, and we should brace ourselves.”

The confirmed death toll in Zimbabwe, neighbouring Mozambique and Malawi surpassed 500 on Thursday, with hundreds more feared dead in areas that were completely submerged.

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The flooded land on approach to Beira Airport in Mozambique (AP)

Mozambique’s president Filipe Nyusi warned earlier this week that as many as 1,000 people could be dead.

Thousands of people are making a grim voyage toward the city of Beira in Mozambique, which although heavily damaged is now a centre for rescue efforts.

Some walked along roads carved away by the raging waters while others were ferried by local fishermen.

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A young boy sits on the edge of a collapsed bridge in Nhamatanda, west of Beira (AP)

Helicopters set off into the rain for another day of efforts to find people clinging to rooftops and trees.

For those who reach Beira with their few remaining possessions, life is grim. Waterborne diseases are a growing concern as water and sanitation systems were largely destroyed.

“The situation is simply horrendous, there is no other way to describe it,” Mr As Sy said, after touring transit camps for the growing number of displaced.

“Three thousand people who are living in a school that has 15 classrooms and six – only six – toilets. You can imagine how much we are sitting on a water and sanitation ticking bomb.”

He said that what moved him the most was the number of children without their parents, separated in the chaos or newly orphaned.

Zimbabwe was also affected by the cyclone. As roads began to clear and some basic communications were set up, a fuller picture of the extent of the damage there is beginning to emerge.

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Pedestrians walk on the edge of a collapsed bridge in Nhamatanda (AP)

The victims are diverse: a mother buried in the same grave with her child, headmasters missing together with dozens of school students, illegal gold and diamond miners swept away by raging rivers and police officers washed away with their prisoners.

The ministry of information said 30 pupils, two headmasters and a teacher are missing.

In Mutare, fear gripped residents even though they are more than 85 miles from Chimanimani, the worst-hit part of Zimbabwe.

A man who travelled several miles to a reception centre for survivors in Chimanimani said several of his colleagues were swept away as they tried to cross a river while fleeing from a mountain known for rich gold deposits and frequented by hordes of illegal miners.

PA

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