More than 1,000 people are feared dead, four days since Cyclone Idai smashed into the African country of Mozambique, the nation’s president said.
Located in the southeastern part of Africa, Mozambique has over 30 million people and has lately seen entire villages submerged and destroyed by strong winds and heavy rains.
“It is a real disaster of great proportions,” said President Filipe Nyusi on state Radio Mozambique.
While the death toll currently stands at 84 in the nation, Nyusi said that “it appears we can register more than 1,000 deaths.”
Having no way to know officially if the death toll will rise to the president’s number, emergency officials still warned that they expect the death toll to rise significantly. (RELATED: ‘Bomb Cyclone’ Forces Airlines To Cancel Thousands Of Flights)
President Nyusi cut short a visit with a neighboring country over the weekend after hearing news of the storm. After flying over Beira, a port city in Mozambique, and two other rural provinces, Nyusi recalled the devastation he saw.
“The waters of Pungue and Buzi rivers overflowed, making whole villages disappear and isolating communities, and bodies are floating,” said Nyusi.
Drone footage shows scale of damage that Cyclone Idai has inflicted onto Mozambique, with the country’s president saying that the death toll could reach as high as 1,000. https://t.co/DnCHMjvDoT pic.twitter.com/9pg0QPIWuY
— ABC News (@ABC) March 19, 2019
The cyclone first struck Beira on Thursday before moving inland to hit neighboring countries Zimbabwe and Malawi. In total, more than 215 people between the three countries were killed by the storm, according to official figures. Specifically, more than 80 people have been killed in eastern Zimbabwe and more than 50 from Malawi.
To help the devastated countries, the Red Cross and U.N. agencies have sent emergency food and medicine by helicopter. The food will be essential, particularly in Beira, where the storm has come right before harvesting season. (RELATED: What Does The Science Actually Say About Global Warming And Midwest Floods?)
“As this damage is occurring just before the main harvest season, it could exacerbate food insecurity in the region,” said OCHA, a U.N. humanitarian office.
Riverbanks have been broken due to the heavy rains in southern Malawi, leading to around 11,000 households submerged and displaced. In addition, the flooding has also affected Mount Chiluvo in central Mozambique, causing mudslides that forced families to flee to higher ground.
“I was indoors with my children, but when we looked we saw mud coming down the road towards the houses and we fled,” said Francisco Carlitos told Portuguese News Agency, Lusa.
Over 90 percent of Beira has been destroyed or damaged by Idai. In addition, the cyclone has knocked out electricity, cut access to the city by road and shut down the airport, according to the Red Cross. Beira’s Central Hospital’s emergency room has also been flooded, without power and much of the building’s roof has collapsed. (RELATED: Before And After Image Shows The Extent Of The Flooding In Houston)
Prone to cyclones and typhoons in this time of year, Mozambique has been hit by major floods before. In 2000, weeks of heavy rain caused severe flooding that killed approximately 700 people.