Death toll from Cyclone Idai in southeast Africa rises to 350; hundreds more feared dead

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Death toll from Cyclone Idai in southeast Africa rises to 350; hundreds more feared dead
A woman stands next to her destroyed belongings in Chimanimani, Zimbabwe
Flooding in Mozambique. Pic: INGC

(SKY NEWS) — The number of people killed by the cyclone that hit southern Africa has reached 350, and is likely to rise further.

Large parts of Mozambique have been engulfed after Cyclone Idai smashed into its low lying coastal areas and heavy rains caused landslides and flash floods in Malawi and Zimbabwe.

So far, officials have said that at least 200 bodies have been recovered in Mozambique and 300 people may have died in Zimbabwe.

At least 400,000 people have been left homeless and experts say the total number killed will only be known when floodwaters recede.

A woman stands next to her destroyed belongings in Chimanimani, Zimbabwe

In Mozambique, rapidly rising floodwaters have created “an inland ocean,” according to aid workers.

Aerial pictures showed people crammed into the upper floors of the few buildings still intact.

Jamie LeSueur, head of response efforts for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said: “This is the worst humanitarian crisis in Mozambique’s recent history.”

Caroline Haga of the Red Cross added: “Everyone is doubling, tripling, quadrupling whatever they were planning. It’s much larger than anyone could ever anticipate.”

Matthew Pickard of the charity CARE said the flooding and the inability to access some of the hardest hit areas has limited the ability to see the extent of the disaster.

“Over the next few days we’ll learn just how big it is,” he said

The UK has responded by pledging up to £6m in aid and the European Union released €3.5m (£3m). Tanzania airlifted 238 tonnes of food and medicine.

The US said it was “mobilising to provide support” to partners in the three countries.

The United Nations allocated £15m to its emergency response but said logistics remained a challenge and the hardest hit areas, like Chimanimani in Zimbabwe, remained impossible to reach.

Rescue and relief efforts have been hampered by the closure of airports in the affected areas.

Mozambique started three days of national mourning on Wednesday.

Winds of up to 105mph (170km/h) and a wall of sea water wrecked roads, flattened buildings and submerged villages.

Large areas to the west of the port city of Beira, near where the cyclone made landfall, are said to be severely flooded, and in places close to the Buzi and Pungwe rivers flood waters are metres deep, completely submerging homes, telephone poles and trees.

Satellite images suggested 1.7 million people were in the path of the cyclone in Mozambique and another 920,000 in Malawi.

In Zimbabwean town of Chimanimani, on the border with Mozambique, one man, Zacharia Chinyai, said he had lost 12 relatives.

He said: “There was a house there, it was buried and the owners may have been buried with it. They are missing,”

Chipo Dhliwayo was sleeping with her family when their house collapsed, killing her daughters, four-year-old Anita and eight-year-old Amanda.

“I wasn’t able to save anything except this baby,” she said of her sole surviving child, a six-month-old son.

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