People in cyclone-hit areas of Mozambique are clinging desperately to rooftops in areas virtually submerged by flood water, awaiting aid and rescue, the charity Save the Children has said.
Aid workers are also racing against time to save thousands of children from becoming trapped in Buzi, a district in the country’s central Sofala province that could become submerged in the next 24 hours, according to an aerial survey, the international charity said.
The survey showed that more than 50 kilometers of land in Buzi town has been submerged after a river burst its banks in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai that has devastated three countries in southern Africa.
“Thousands of children lived in areas completely engulfed by water. In many places, no roofs or treetops are even visible above the floods. In other areas, people are clinging to rooftops desperately waiting to be rescued,” said Machiel Pouw, Save the Children’s response leader in Mozambique.
Fears are growing for more than 500,000 people in the Mozambique city of Beira, after aid agency officials warned that 90% of the area had been destroyed by CycloneI Idai
“The roads are totally cut, so Beira is isolated and cell phone network is down,” said Marco Tamburro, program director for the nonprofit Humanity and Inclusion.
Thousands of families, many from the poorest areas of Beira, have lost their homes. While some have found shelter with neighbors and friends, he said, most have no other option than to wait for humanitarian aid.
Tamburro has also warned the flooding could lead to a disease outbreak.
“It is a big risk having this big quantity of water in the city, there’s a risk of an outbreak of cholera, malaria and other diseases.”
The cyclone slammed into the southeast African country as a high-end Category 2 storm with 175 kph (110 mph winds) at midnight Thursday, causing widespread devastation, before moving inland into Zimbabwe and Malawi.
Flying metals have decapitated victims
Residents in Beira told AFP many victims were injured by the flying metal sheets from the roofs of some houses in the area.
“Flying sheets of metal decapitated people. People are very bad here, some are in hospital … we don’t have any help here … it’s getting bad, we’re eating badly, we’re sleeping badly and we don’t have homes,” Rajino Paulino said.
Layla George, another victim, said she was sleeping on Thursday night when the roof of her house was blown away by powerful winds caused by the cyclone.
“I was inside my house, I was sleeping and I had set the bed for my daughter to sleep underneath … suddenly the roof flew away. I had locked the door and I lost the keys. We started crying for help but there was no help because it was the middle of the night and there was a lot of wind,” George told AFP.
The residents said they have lost their houses and they have no place to stay.
More than 200 people in Mozambique have been confirmed dead, Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi told journalists on Tuesday. He cautioned that number was preliminary.
On Monday, when the death toll stood at 84, Nyusi said his government was expecting it to rise to more than 1,000.
Nyusi described seeing “bodies floating” in the water after two rivers broke their banks “wiping out entire villages” and isolating others. “It’s a real humanitarian disaster of large proportions,” said Nyusi.
If Nyusi’s estimated death toll is confirmed, Tropical Cyclone Idai would be the deadliest tropical cyclone on record to have hit southern Africa.
Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF, said there was no power in Beira and surrounding areas, and nearly all communication lines had been destroyed.
“Main roads leading into Beira have been cut off, buildings have been submerged and severely damaged, and all business has been shut down,” said the aid agency, adding that “medical activities in Beira hospital, in local health centers, and throughout the community have ceased completely.”
Though the cyclone hit Mozambique on Thursday, the extent of the damage has taken days to come into focus due in part to the country’s poor infrastructure.