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Cyclone Idai Death Toll To Exceed 500, Zimbabwe’s Military Says

The final death toll from Cyclone Idai in Zimbabwe will exceed 500, officials said on Tuesday as it was revealed that dozens of bodies from...

The final death toll from Cyclone Idai in Zimbabwe will exceed 500, officials said on Tuesday as it was revealed that dozens of bodies from Zimbabwe had washed up in neighbouring Mozambique.

Local Government Minister July Moyo said Zimbabwe would be sending its military to Mozambique where he says as many as 300 bodies are reported to have been disgorged from Zimbabwe.

The military, meanwhile, expects the death toll to surpass 500.

The minister spoke as burials continued for the 98 people so far confirmed dead. Burials must happen quickly because the government hospital mortuaries in the area are without power.

“At Rusitu, there are two rivers which converge and they both burst and we understand there are bodies that floated and some all the way into Mozambique,” Moyo, leading a ministerial delegation to the affected areas, said.

“Peasants in Mozambique were calling our people to say we see bodies and we believe they are coming from Zimbabwe. The total number we were told could be 100 with some going as far as saying they could be 300. We cannot confirm this situation.”
Grim task … Villagers in Manicaland are conducting mass burials of several dozen people at a time using makeshift coffins
Major General Joe Muzvidziwa, the 3 Infantry Brigade commander leading rescue efforts in Manicaland, said the most extensive damage from the cyclone was concentrated in the Rusitu Valley where mudslides destroyed homes and swept away their occupants.

“We don’t have sufficient data on the numbers of people who died and those that are missing. In fact, when the data collation is done, we are expecting the number of missing people not to be less than 500. The good thing is that the water levels have receded and if we manage to clear the roads we could have a clear picture by end of day Wednesday,” Major General Muzvidziwa said.

Winds of up to 170 kph and flooding swept across south-eastern Africa, including Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi, affecting more than 2.6 million people, United Nations officials said on Tuesday.

Rescue crews were still struggling to reach victims five days later, while aid groups said many survivors were trapped in remote areas, surrounded by wrecked roads, flattened buildings and submerged villages.

The cyclone hit land near Mozambique’s coastal city of Beira on Thursday and moved inland throughout the weekend, leaving heavy rains in its trail. In Zimbabwe, Manicaland which borders Mozambique was the worst affected although deaths were also noted in Bikita in Masvingo and Mashonaland East province.

Studies of satellite images suggested 1.7 million people were in the path of the cyclone in Mozambique and another 920,000 affected in Malawi, said Herve Verhoosel, senior spokesman at the U.N World Food Programme. He gave no figures for Zimbabwe.

Citizens across Zimbabwe are mobilising donations, including cash, food and clothes to help thousands of families whose homes were wrecked by the cyclone.

President Mnangagwa, who visited Chimanimani on Tuesday, told reporters that Tanzania and the United Arab Emirates were also sending donations while neighbors, including South Africa, Botswana and Angola, would also help.

The European Union announced on Tuesday an initial emergency aid package of $3.97 million to Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe for logistical support to reach affected people, emergency shelters, hygiene, sanitation and health care.

Britain has pledged up to $7.96 million in aid.

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