Cyclone Idai death toll could reach 1000

A woman walks through floodwaters in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai in Beira, Mozambique  (CNS/Josh Estey, Care International via Reuters)

Two boys at a Catholic boarding school in Zimbabwe are among the more than 300 people confirmed dead in the aftermath of a cyclone that slammed into Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi. Source: CNS.

Officials fear the death toll from the cyclone could reach 1,000.

A landslide sent rocks crashing into a dormitory at St Charles Lwanga Seminary Secondary School in Mutare Diocese, trapping about 50 students and staff. They dug themselves out, and teachers carried the boys’ bodies for about 16 kilometres in the Chimanimani district, a mountainous area in eastern Zimbabwe, before the group was picked up by the army and taken to the nearest hospital.

In Mozambique, more than 200 people have died and nearly 350,000 are at risk, President Filipe Nyusi said on Tuesday. In Zimbabwe, the government said about 100 people had died, but the death toll could triple.

“It’s very difficult to know the extent of the damage” and the death toll, with collapsed infrastructure and communication lines down, Erica Dahl-Bredine, the United States Catholic Relief Services’ representative for Mozambique, said in a March 18 telephone interview.

Beira, Mozambique’s second-largest city and a major port, “is almost completely destroyed, and some areas outside the city are impossible to reach,” she said. The cyclone knocked out electricity, shut down Beira’s international airport and cut off access to the city by road.

“People are stranded on roofs of houses and in trees, waiting for help,” Ms Dahl-Bredine said, noting that roads and bridges have been washed away.

With overflowing rivers, whole villages have been submerged and bodies were floating in the floodwaters, she said.

Catholic Relief Services is working with local Caritas and other Church and relief groups to assess the needs and provide help, she said.

Cyclone Idai landed in Beira late March 14 before moving to Zimbabwe with strong winds and heavy rain.

Church premises throughout Zimbabwe are being used to provide refuge for those who have lost their homes, as well as to coordinate the emergency response with all those involved, she said. With “overwhelming local support,” the church is “well placed to give a targeted and meaningful response.”

Fr Frederick Chiromba, secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference said on Saturday that early warning systems for the cyclone were in place but “the extent of the damage was worse than we had expected.”

FULL STORY

As cyclone slams Africa, churches, aid agencies coordinate response (CNS)

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Devastation from Cyclone Idai ‘getting bigger by the hour’ as its full effect is felt across Mozambique (The Catholic Leader)

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