Maputo/Harare – The death toll in Mozambique after cyclone Idai tore through the region at the weekend could reach up to 1 000, President Filipe Nyusi told Radio Mocambique on Monday.
Following a visit to the disaster zone, he said 84 deaths had been confirmed, but information from rescuers and damage viewed from the air led him to fear that up to 1 000 people had been killed.
The category-4 storm made landfall on Friday after brewing in the Indian Ocean, bringing up to 160-kilometre-per-hour winds to central Mozambique before weakening slightly and heading towards Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe’s deputy minister of information, Energy Mutodi, said on Monday that 89 people have been killed in his country – more than double what was reported there at the weekend.
Idai devastated the Mozambican city of Beira, with Red Cross and Red Crescent helpers reporting that 90 per cent of buildings had been destroyed following an aerial assessment.
Beira, with a population of around 500 000, has been without power since late Thursday. The airport there was reopened on Sunday.
"Almost everything is destroyed. Communication lines have been completely cut and roads have been destroyed. Some affected communities are not accessible," said Jamie LeSueur, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) team in the region.
"Beira has been severely battered. But we are also hearing that the situation outside the city could be even worse. Yesterday, a large dam burst and cut off the last road to the city," he added.
Manicaland Province was worst hit in Zimbabwe, with severe flooding prompting a nationwide state of emergency.
The delivery of aid to the affected areas has been hampered due to inaccessible roads and bridges having been swept away.
"The road networks have been destroyed. The army is trying ways to deliver food, blankets and medicines to the affected areas," Zimbabwean local government minister July Moyo said on Monday.
The World Food Programme has pledged food aid for around 600 000 people in the region.