Dead go unburied in Zim as floods cut roads

Scores of corpses await burial; officials warn of new peril from dam in Vumba

24 March 2019 - 00:00 By KENNETH MATIMAIRE

Fanuel Mazwati, 27, was herding cattle in Ndima village close to the Mozambican border last week when disaster struck in the shape of Cyclone Idai.
Five days later family members buried his already decomposing body. They could at least start getting closure, but more than 50 other families in the area have not been able to bury their loved ones because they cannot get to the affected areas.
Army engineers are building emergency detours to replace roads that were rendered impassable by the cyclone.
And there are fears that another disaster is looming in the Vumba area, where a dam is likely to collapse because of the flooding.
Officials are battling to persuade residents in the area to evacuate.
The smell of death permeates Ngangu township in the Chimanimani district, where out of necessity victims of the cyclone are being buried in mass graves.
The eastern province of Manicaland was Zimbabwe's worst-hit area. It is just over 430km by road from Beira in Mozambique, which bore the brunt of the cyclone 10 days ago.
"Our brother Fanuel was buried on Wednesday with the assistance of the government, but his body was in a bad state ... it took us time to go and identify the body," said Dakarai Mazwati.
Official figures indicate that the death toll in Zimbabwe has risen to 139, and so far only 74 bodies have been buried.
In addition, 189 people have been reported missing, 19 are critically ill, 144 injured and 136 are marooned. A total of 4,313 people have been displaced by the floods.
The army is still busy airlifting people to safer areas.
Lovemore Sithole had to bury his son Elliot, 17, after the teenager was fatally injured when the family home collapsed in the night.
Surviving family members are still searching for another relative, Kudzai Sithole, who has not been seen since the cyclone hit.
"We could not put the body of our deceased son in a mortuary because of many reasons beyond our control," said Lovemore.
"We had to conduct a hurried burial without following our customary traditions."
The experiences of the Sithole family reflected the looming health crisis in the wake of the cyclone.
In Chimanimani, hospital mortuaries are all full. Only one of the four hospital mortuaries in Chipinge is functional.
Chief Muusha, who oversees the district, said he had been directing families to conduct burials and not wait for government assistance.
He said mortuary services are "something we had to overlook considering the nature of the disaster and number of people affected and little resources available".
The government wants the next of kin to identify the dead before burials are carried out, which is delaying the process.
The president of the Chiefs Council, Fortune Charumbira, said Cyclone Idai had been a painful lesson for Zimbabwe and an urgent reminder that precautions needed to be taken to mitigate the impact of future disasters.
"This is a lesson we have learnt, that if we hear of any cyclone in future of this magnitude coming our way from Mozambique, we need to take action and evacuate people in disaster-prone areas in time," he said.
Manicaland provincial administrator Edgar Seenza said the government had tried to evacuate people but faced resistance.
"They thought this cyclone would be like the previous one," he said.
"We tried to appeal to people to move. Right now there is an imminent disaster in the Vumba area where a dam is likely to collapse because of the flooding, and we are appealing to those people to move again, but they are reluctant."

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