Relief trickles as death toll rises

BY BLESSED MHLANGA

The death toll from Cyclone Idai rose to 98, while 217 people were confirmed missing as relief efforts intensified yesterday after the weather abated with officials trying to ascertain the devastation that has created a humanitarian crisis and left a trail of destruction.

Information ministry said 102 people were injured while 42 are marooned. He said most infrastructure, including roads and bridges had been washed away in Chimanimani, but the army had cleared some roads allowing aid to reach victims.

Rains have also dissipated enough to allow the army and other well-wishers to deploy helicopters for air rescue although large parts remained inaccessible by road.

The ministry said President Emmerson Mnangagwa was making plans to visit Manicaland today while the leader of the opposition MDC Nelson Chamisa toured some of the affected areas yesterday and made donations of blankets, food and clothing which he said were from the members of his party.

The scale of destruction will become clearer as relief workers make their way into the most affected areas.

Chimanimani district, which is near the border with Mozambique and bore the brunt of the cyclone, has been cut off from the rest of the country.

Torrential rains and winds whose speed topped 170km per hour knocked down power and communication lines and swept away roads and bridges in the mountanious region while Chipinge and parts of Masvingo were also devastated.

Mnangagwa, who cut short his visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at the weekend to deal with the disaster, described the devastation as the worst in the history of the country and that its effects will be felt for a long time.

“The human toll has been horrendous, far exceeding what we have seen or experienced before in our history as a nation,” he said yesterday.

“We know others were killed in their sleep from swift and unexpected rock falls which demolished their homes and other forms of institutional shelter, still others met their tragic fate from overwhelming landslides which suffocated, before swiftly burying them under. We believe to this day many still lie unrecovered beneath mounds of debris that hit them with such overwhelming fury in their sleep that they stood no chance.”

Mnangagwa said he would be going to Manicaland to lead relief efforts already underway.

“No efforts or resources will be spared to reach all those in distress, any extra life lost is one too many. I shall be leaving for Manicaland tomorrow (today) to acquaint myself with and personally lend weight to rescue efforts already underway,” he said.

The President said the UAE had since dispatched aid and appealed to the international community to join relief efforts.

On his part, Chamisa told NewsDay that he had been met with decaying bodies, families trapped on islands and mountain tops with no access to help or aid.

“What we have seen here is heart-breaking, bodies are decomposing because relatives are either unaware that their relatives are dead in and some cases
they are cut off from where the deceased are,” Chamisa said from Nyanyadzi Hospital in Chimanimani.

“We are appealing to the international community to come to the aid of our people, most of them have no homes to go back to, their homes have been washed away, some are still trapped on islands and our reaction as the State is very slow and, painfully, could be leading to the loss of more lives, we need help.”

Chamisa said the State had been caught napping and had failed to prevent the calamity.

“We have been caught napping and this just exposed how behind we are in quick response. People could have been evacuated, but instead they were told to close their doors. Some were swept away in their sleep and sad stories of children who were retrieved hanging from trees on the river bed,” he said.

Mozambique’s President Felipe Nyusi said on national radio that the number of people killed in the storms and floods caused by the cyclone in the country could exceed 1 000. Villages had disappeared and bodies were floating in the water, he said in a report by Reuters.

“Everything indicates that we can register more than one thousand deaths,” he said.

The Red Cross described the damage on Beira, which felt the first impact of the cyclone, as horrifying.

“The scale of damage caused by Cyclone Idai that hit the Mozambican city of Beira is massive and horrifying,” the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said in a statement yesterday.

In a related development, Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) said its supply stations have been affected by flooding.

The stations have either lost power or their pumping equipment flooded and that it was unable to provide water to people serviced by the affected water supply stations.

“Stations that have been affected are mostly in the Save Catchment, which covers mostly Manicaland, and Runde Catchment which mostly covers Masvingo,” Zinwa said in a statement.

“Stations that stand affected in Save Catchment are Murambinda, Checheche, Birchenough Bridge, Nyanyadzi, Chakohwa, Chibuwe, Matendeudze, Biriwiri, Murambinda, Buhera, Nyanga, Tanganda, Zimunya and Mutasa.”

“Also affected are Gutu, Zaka, Mutimurefu and Ngundu Water Supply stations in Runde Catchment.”

The water authority said it shall be providing potable water to the areas using tanks and water bowsers until normal service was restored.

Meanwhile, the United Nations, in statement by Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for the secretary-general said it was ready to work with Zimbabwean authorities in response to the humanitarian disaster.

“The United Nations expresses its solidarity with the Zimbabwe authorities and stands ready to work with them as they respond to the humanitarian needs resulting from this disaster,” the statement read.

Local organisation, Green Building Council of Zimbabwe yesterday urged the corporate world to assist affected families.

“In the wake of the disaster, we want to exhort corporates, especially mining companies to support the communities that have lost their loved ones and homes. As Green Building Council of Zimbabwe, we are co-ordinating the relief effort on behalf of mining companies and other corporates and would like to appeal to the entities to extend a helping hand,” Memory Mugova, Green Building Council of Zimbabwe general-secretary said in a statement.

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