Cyclone death toll skyrockets

Soldiers offload the body of a Cyclone Idai victim from a helicopter at Skyline in Chimanimani yesterday
Soldiers offload the body of a Cyclone Idai victim from a helicopter at Skyline in Chimanimani yesterday

BY Xolisani Ncube

THE death toll from the Eastern Highlands floods has skyrocketed after a whole village, police station and government complex at Rusitu in Chimanimani were swept away as hundreds of people remain unaccounted for, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said yesterday.

Rescue workers continue searching for survivors one week after Cyclone Idai ripped through the southern Africa countries of Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, leaving many dead and property destroyed.

Addressing a Press briefing at State House last night, Mnangagwa declared two days of national mourning starting tomorrow in respect of those who perished in the disaster.

“As we now know, we have lost many citizens, with the human toll set to reach several hundreds,” he said.

While visiting the worst affected areas in Chimanimani and Chipinge on Wednesday, Mnangagwa was greeted by horrific accounts of “many who continue to grieve the loss of loved ones, and are living in the hope of recovering their remains”.

“In Rusitu, I saw with unmitigated disrepair big boulders recklessly strewn on what used to be a resettlement, a banana market and even a police post.
In respect of the latter, both the serving officer and prisoner were washed away alongside other government structure and private residences. The resettlement was completely washed away and the remains of the occupants unaccounted for to this day,” he said.

Mnangagwa said from tomorrow, citizens will take time to remember the victims of the cyclone.

“We expect all citizens, both individually and collectively, and in different ways which are informed by their faiths, beliefs and cultures to remember our entire dear departed by way of prayers and in whatever other forms and practices,” he stated.

Chimanimani district and some parts of Chipinge, near the border with Mozambique, bore the brunt of Cyclone Idai and have been cut off from the rest of the country, with rescue teams still battling to reach some marooned people.

Mnangagwa said while the search for the missing people continues, his administration would focus on recovering and decently burying any bodies or remains still outstanding.

He said government would ensure adequate food relief to affected families and communities between now and the next harvest and provide free medical services to those affected by the cyclone.

Government will also provide temporary shelter to victims of the cyclone and safe clean water.