At least 24 people have been killed and dozens are missing in parts of eastern Zimbabwe after the country was hit by tropical cyclone Idai which lashed neighbouring Mozambique and Malawi, the government said.
Cyclone Idai has affected more than 1.5 million people in the three southern African countries, according to the United Nations and government officials.
Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Information announced on Twitter that so far the “number of deaths is confirmed at 24 mainly from Chimanimani East,” including two students, while at least 40 other people have been injured.
Many houses have been damaged and bridges washed away in parts of the Manicaland Province which borders Mozambique.
A group of people, who fled their homes, was “marooned” on top of a mountain waiting to be rescued, but strong winds were hampering helicopter flights, the ministry said on Saturday.
In Mozambique, where Idai made landfall on Thursday, at least 19 people died and about 70 were severely injured. The storm hit with wind gusts of about 160 kilometres per hour, causing ocean waves of up to nine metres high.
Luis Fonseca, a journalist at Lusa News Agency told Al Jazeera that the cyclone is expected to dissipate on Saturday in Mozambique, but it will continue to create trouble.
“The problem now is that the rivers are likely to flood all the areas around, and this will cause even more damage to all these families which have [already] lost their houses.”
“Now they risk losing their harvest and food insecurity is the next big risk in all over this area,” Fonseca explains.
Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change spokesman Jacob Mafume tweeted that there is a “serious humanitarian crisis” unfolding in eastern Zimbabwe districts.
Serious humanitarian crisis unfolding in chimanimani chipinge most of our structures comms are down.We need state intervention on a massive scale to avoid biblical disaster ,homes bridges being washed away lives in danger @hwendec @daddyhop@kwirirayi @nelsonchamisa @mdczimbabwe pic.twitter.com/QSVEe7yiG7
— MDC spokesperson (@JMafume) March 16, 2019
Local officials in Mozambique said that heavy rains earlier in the week, before the cyclone struck, had already claimed another 66 lives, injured scores and displaced 17,000 people.
Heavy downpours in neighbouring Malawi this week have affected almost a million people and claimed 56 lives there, according to the latest government toll.
Zimbabwe is still assessing its losses.
“The information we have so far is that over 100 people are missing,” said Joshua Sacco, an MP in Chimanimani district.
“At least 25 houses were swept away following a mudslide at Ngangu township in Chimanimani urban. There were people inside,” he told the AFP news agency, saying they were listed as missing.
The Ministry of Information said the Zimbabwean national army was leading rescue efforts to airlift students from a damaged school and others trapped by the storm.
South Africa‘s military has sent in aircraft and 10 medical personnel to help in Mozambique and Malawi, it said in a statement Saturday.
When the cyclone hit Mozambique, authorities there were forced to close the international airport in the port city of Beira after the air traffic control tower, the navigation systems and the runways were damaged by the storm.
An official at the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) of Mozambique told AFP on Friday “there is extreme havoc”.
“Some runway lights were damaged, the navigation system is damaged, the control tower antennas and the control tower itself are all damaged.”
“The runway is full of obstacles and parked aircraft are damaged.”
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies