Cyclone Idai's havoc adds to Zimbabwe's woes
At least 24 people have died in Cyclone Idai, which moved into eastern Zimbabwe at the weekend from Mozambique.
The cyclone left a trail of destruction in Mozambique and Malawi. Scores were injured, property destroyed and many displaced by the heavy rain, and winds of up to 170km/h. The cyclone hit as Zimbabwe struggles on many economic fronts.
Lazarus Boore, the acting Manicaland administrator, said yesterday that 24 people, among them two students, had died in the mountainous Chimanimani area.
"A total of 70 people have been reported missing, 40 in Chimanimani and the remainder in Chipinge," he said.
In Chipinge, 67 houses were destroyed, leaving families destitute. In Mutare, on the Mozambique border, 15 houses were destroyed.
"A total of 100 houses have been destroyed in Chimanimani," said Boore. "The area is still experiencing heavy rain. Two bridges have been destroyed."
He said divers and soldiers had been called up but could not reach Chimanimani. Thirteen diamond miners, whose homes were destroyed, had sought refuge on a nearby mountain, said Boore.
The bad weather stretched inland as far as Harare, which had 24 hours of rain from Friday.
Edgar Seenza, the Manicaland administrator, said Chimanimani was the hardest hit, with most bridges and houses destroyed.
"We are engaging the leadership in the affected areas, such as traditional leaders, the business community, political leaders and councillors, so they can give us a clear picture of damage and casualties."
He said some bridges had been swept away, making it difficult to get help to people who were in need.
A command centre for relief and rescue efforts is being established in the province to provide co-ordinated responses.
The MP for the Chimanimani district, Joshua Sacco, said as many as 100 people might be missing.
"At least 25 houses were swept away following a mudslide at Ngangu township in Chimanimani urban. There were people inside; they are part of the missing," Sacco told AFP.
Sacco has launched a humanitarian appeal for tents, food and blankets for those affected. Assistance is also being provided by humanitarian agencies including Doctors Without Borders and the Red Cross.
The meteorological department has put out a high alert, saying that four provinces in the country are at risk of devastation from Cyclone Idai over the next few days. These are Manicaland, Masvingo, Mashonaland East and Mashonaland Central.
The floods and heavy rain will add to Zimbabwe's precarious food security in the wake of lean harvests.
Earlier this month, the UN launched an appeal for $234m to help 2.2-million people out of 5.3-million who are in need of food assistance until June this year.