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Cyclone Idai: emergency getting ‘bigger by the hour’

DEVASTATION: A woman holds a child backdropped by damaged cause by tropical Cyclone Idai

CYCLONE IDAI has wrought devastation across Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe and officials at the UN say the emergency is getting “bigger by the hour”.

Excessive flooding has created inland oceans in Mozambique and thousands of people are believed to have been killed or injured by the disaster. Tens of thousands of people have lost their homes, and roads, infrastructure and crops have all been destroyed.

Six days since the storm made landfall in Mozambique, the UN has said that the disaster could have affected by more than 2.6 million people.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Christophe Boulierac, spokesperson for the UN Children’s Fund, said: “Many people are in desperate situations, several thousand are fighting for their lives at the moment, sitting on rooftops, in trees and other elevated areas. These include families and obviously many children.”

Floodwaters in Zimbabwe and Malawi have begun to recede, according to reports, but Mozambique is facing “a major humanitarian emergency that is getting bigger by the hour”, the World Food Programme has warned.

Clare Nullis, spokesperson for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said: “The Mozambican president is quoted as saying they are fearing there are more than 1,000 casualties.

“If these reports, these fears are realised, then we can say that this is one of the worst weather-related disasters - tropical cyclone-related disasters - in the southern hemisphere.”

The official death toll in Mozambique has reached 200, but the figure is expected to rise significantly.

Beira, the country’s fourth largest city, has been severely affected. The UN has reported that 90 per cent of the buildings in the port city have been damaged.

A state of emergency has been put in place in Mozambique and three days of national mourning have been declared, starting today.

A list of survivors and those missing has been created by the Red Cross. People looking for loved ones can use the Family Links site to search for relatives or to confirm they themselves are alive.

Zimbabwe’s president Emmerson Mnangagwa said: “We are all grieving the tragic loss of life from Cyclone Idai. Our togetherness as a nation continues to provide strength to those suffering. I am particularly proud of our incredible special forces who are showing great bravery to help those who have been affected.”

Continued rainfall has hampered relief efforts and created obstacles to agencies delivering aid. Pilots have been praised for delivering food aid in the difficult and dangerous conditions.

WFP spokesperson Herve Verhoosel said: “It was very difficult to land a plane like this...Can you imagine in an airport, damaged by the water, dark with no light or radio communication with the control tower, nothing. I mean, those pilots are incredible."

The cyclone, which has been deemed the worst extreme weather event to occur so far this year, has been framed by some experts as a sign of things to come if action is not taken to protect vulnerable communities from the effects of climate change.

Mami Mizutori, UN special representative for disaster risk reduction, said: “Cyclone Idai is a clear demonstration of the exposure and vulnerability of many low-lying cities and towns to sea-level rise as the impact of climate change continues to influence and disrupt normal weather patterns.”

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