Scale of cyclone Idai destruction still unclear as deaths pass 600
March 23 2019 05:03 PM
Flooded buildings are seen in Beira, Mozambique, in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai
Flooded buildings are seen in Beira, Mozambique, in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai

Dpa/Beira, Mozambique

The number of dead from cyclone Idai in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi has risen to at least 615, the UN said on Saturday, citing official figures from the national governments.

The death tolls provided by a spokesman for the UN emergency aid agency OCHA in Geneva said that 417 had died in Mozambique, 139 in Zimbabwe, and 59 in Malawi.

Rains continued in Mozambique's port city of Beira, which was nearly submerged by floodwaters when cyclone Idai made landfall.

Rescue workers are using boats to reach stranded residents. More than 30 people are being treated by the Indian Navy. With food running out in the city, survivors are being fed biscuits, soup and water along with medication.

Dozens of residents are lining up to withdraw money from the few working ATMs.

The city with a population of about 500,000 was devastated by the storm. The massive cyclone left a 125-kilometre-wide lake in Beira and surrounding towns and villages.

Across the region, some 600,000 people have been displaced and at least 1.7 million people have been affected by the cyclone, according to various UN agencies.

‘The situation will get worse before it gets better,’ UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore said in a statement after visiting Beira.

‘Aid agencies are barely beginning to see the scale of the damage. Entire villages have been submerged, buildings have been flattened, and schools and health care centres have been destroyed.’  She warned of the risk that water-borne diseases ‘can turn this disaster into a major catastrophe.’  The confirmed number of dead is expected to rise as more information comes in from the areas hit worst by the cyclone and by flooding.

A Zimbabwe army official told dpa on Friday that 145 bodies had been recovered from one area near the Mozambique border - several more than the official national toll reported by the UN.

Aid operations in the wake of the devastating cyclone are set to speed up, after the UN raised the emergency level of the disaster.

It is now being considered an emergency on the same priority level as the Yemen and Syria conflicts.

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