Relief was overwhelmed on Wednesday by the scale of the cyclone disaster Idai in southern Africa, which left at least 300 people dead, with thousands of people trapped on rooftops and trees six days later. one of the worst storms in the region.
“This is the worst humanitarian crisis in the recent history of Mozambique,” the country most affected, said the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent.
The cyclone, which caused landslides and floods, left at least 202 people dead in Mozambique and a hundred in neighboring Zimbabwe. But the record could exceed one thousand deaths in Mozambique, according to President Filipe Nyusi who decreed three days of national mourning.
Given the continuing rains in the coming days, “the situation is likely to get worse,” warned the United Nations Office of Humanitarian Affairs (OCH).
Waves 8 meters high
Waves of 8 meters high are expected in the region of Beira, Mozambique’s second largest city, warned President Nyusi.
The priority on Wednesday was to rescue the thousands of people who took refuge on trees, roofs or islets formed by the impressive floods. In some places, the water level has reached up to six meters.
Nearly 350,000 people are stranded in flooded areas in Mozambique, according to President Nyusi.
“We have thousands of people who, for more than three days, are stuck on rooftops and trees waiting to be rescued,” Caroline Haga, Communications Officer for the Federation, told Beira on Wednesday. International Red Cross and Red Crescent.
Overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster, rescuers are faced with draconian choices. “Unfortunately, we can not help everyone. Our priority is women, children and the wounded, “said Caroline Haga, adding that 167 people were rescued on Tuesday. Unable to be transported in the dry, disaster victims have received food by air.
“We’re running out of time”
“Nobody was prepared for the floods. People were prepared to cope with the cyclone … but the hurricane has caused torrential rains in Zimbabwe and Malawi that have so far reached Mozambique, “said Caroline Haga, explaining the scale of the storm. disaster.
Humanitarian organizations began arriving in Beira on Wednesday after being totally caught off guard, but they remained under-equipped.
“We started with a single helicopter,” said Caroline Haga. “Now we have five [for all rescue operations since Beira]. So, we should be able to save more people, but we are short of time, “she warned.
Relief was also complicated by the persistence of rains and the cutting of roads and telecommunications.
In Beira, soldiers had planned to do a food distribution, but their helicopter could not take off Wednesday morning due to bad weather, said an AFP journalist.
The NGOs also warned against the health, malaria and cholera risks in particular, while the Beira hospital was partially damaged by bad weather.
“We need to find and save thousands of people, including children, set up shelters and transit centers for the victims and provide access to clean water,” said UNICEF, summarizing the scale of the task.
In Zimbabwe, the survivors were still tackling Wednesday, using picks, shovels and sticks, to find bodies in the thick mud that took away a hundred houses in Chimanimani, where eight bridges were destroyed.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa is expected in the day in this small town in a deep valley, where water and mud have carried rocks, homes and cars.
To help victims in the region, the UN has announced $ 20 million.
Mozambique, one of the poorest countries in the world, had already been hit by deadly floods in February and March of 2000. This disaster left some 800 dead, at least 50,000 homeless and affected about two million people on one occasion. population of 17 million.