Aid workers raced yesterday to help survivors and meet spiralling humanitarian needs in three poor countries battered by one of the worst storms to hit southern Africa in decades.
Five days after tropical cyclone Idai cut a swathe through Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, the confirmed death toll stood at more than 300 and hundreds of thousands of lives were at risk, officials said.
Mozambique, where the monster storm made landfall early last Friday, is reeling. “We’ve thousands of people… in roofs and trees waiting for rescue,” Caroline Haga, spokeswoman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said.
“We are running out of time. People have been waiting for rescue for more than three days now,” she told AFP in the storm-ravaged coastal city of Beira. “Yesterday we rescued some 167 people from trees and roofs. Today we’ll continue that. Unfortunately we can’t pick up all the people, so our priority are children, pregnant women, injured people.”
In the Buzi district of Beira, scores of survivors stood perilously on a church rooftop and on terraces of a basketball pitch, surrounded by dirty brown flood waters. Some turned to harvesting rainfall rather than have to drink the mucky waters around them.
Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi on Tuesday said 202 people had died, according to the latest toll, and nearly 350,000 people were risk. In Zimbabwe, the death toll stood at 100 on Wednesday but was expected to surge to 300, while up to 15,000 people are estimated to have been hit by the storm. In Malawi, nearly a million people have been affected and more than 80,000 forced from their homes, according to the UN.