Aid groups in Mozambique struggle to comprehend Cyclone Idai damage

Aid groups in Mozambique struggle to comprehend Cyclone Idai damage

By Luke Vargas   
Published
A scene of the destruction caused by Cyclone Idai near Beira, Mozambique. March 15, 2019. Courtesy: International Federation of the Red Cross
A scene of the destruction caused by Cyclone Idai near Beira, the fourth-largest city in Mozambique, on Tuesday. (Courtesy: International Federation of the Red Cross)

“Entire villages outside are under water. It looks like an inland ocean. It’s a very apocalyptic scene.”

UNITED NATIONS – Three days after Cyclone Idai dissipated off the coast of Mozambique, rescue workers and humanitarian agencies are only beginning to comprehend the scale of the storm’s damage, as hundreds of square miles remain inundated with flood waters and major cities are still cut off from one another.

By one meteorological estimate, the cyclone’s torrential rainfall, coastal flooding and high winds make it one of the worst weather disasters to ever strike the southern hemisphere, and on-the-ground assessments confirm that impression.

Déborah Nguyen is a communications officer for the World Food Programme and sent this update from Beira – Mozambique’s fourth-largest city and home to 500,000 people.

“People say that 90 percent of the city has been destroyed. Everything is down. Trees are down. Electrical poles are down. It’s a very apocalyptic scene.”

Much less is known about conditions outside of major cities, though reports trickling back to aid coordinators are grim.

“Entire villages outside of Beira are underwater. It looks like an inland ocean.”

Days after rivers began to breach their banks, thousands of people still await evacuation from flood zones across Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

Rotafina Donco is the interim country director for Mozambique for the international aid group Oxfam.

“People are on rooftops, they are also on trees, stones and higher ground waiting for rescue operations.”

Mozambique’s president estimates the death toll in his country could ultimately exceed 1,000, though with so many people in need of assistance across inaccessible rural areas, that high estimate could ultimately prove conservative.

And with heavy rainfall expected to continue across storm-affected areas through Thursday, it’s unlikely an already historic natural disaster has fully left its mark.

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