BY KENNETH NYANGANI
RESCUE efforts continued yesterday in the Cyclone Idai-ravaged Chimanimani and Chipinge districts amid reports that some people who died in the disaster could have been buried in mass graves, although government officials denied the reports.
Affected villagers told NewsDay on Monday that they were aware of individuals and relatives that were still missing and who they suspect could have been buried in mass graves.
Barbara Chikumbanwe, of Chimanimani, said she was aware of relatives and strangers who were buried in mass graves.
“I think there are more than 100 people who are missing. People are being buried in mass graves. Strangers are being buried together,” she said.
Another villager, Munyaradzi Sithole, from Nyanyadzi in Chimanimani, said the situation was worse than what people were talking about.
“We have people who are being buried in twos or threes,” she said
MDC leader Nelson Chamisa, who toured the affected areas on Monday, said the figure of Cyclone Idai casualties being given by government was lower than actual numbers.
“I think the figures are far higher than the reports we are getting from the (government) and because of the way we have responded to the crisis, I don’t think we have evidence and information gathering capacity to be able to figure out the extent of the causalities and figure out the real numbers,” he said
“It’s a wake up call on us as authorities and leadership that in future, we must have disaster preparedness mechanisms.”
Local Government minister July Moyo told journalists that government was not aware of mass graves.
“No, no we don’t have that information. Graves have been dug and people are being buried individually,” he said.
“But some of the victims were not taken to their homes, but they have been buried in a decent manner. Youths have been digging graves, not one grave.
If that has happened we don’t have that information.”
President Emmerson Mnangagwa was in Mutare in the afternoon and visited affected areas after attending a Cabinet meeting in the morning.
Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga arrived in Mutare yesterday morning ahead of Mnangagwa.
Addressing journalists at Mutare government complex yesterday, Agriculture minister and Defence acting minister Perrance Shiri commended Zimbabweans for chipping in with donations to assist the cyclone survivors.