Cyclone death toll nears 100: Luwanga school children rescued

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By Staff Reporter

THE death toll from the devastating cyclone that hit Manicaland, Masvingo and parts of Mashonaland East rose to near 100 late Monday according to government statistics.

In updates issued on its Twitter account, the Ministry of Information said hundreds of children at St Charles Luwanga High School who had been trapped since the cyclone made landfall in the area at the weekend had finally been rescued by the army.

“The number of casualties as of 18 March 2019 (is) total deaths 98, 217 missing, 102 injured and 42 marooned,” the statement said.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa arrived in the country early Monday, and said he was deeply touched by the effects of the cyclone.

“We are deeply grieved as a nation. I am happy that our authorities have done their best to look after the families affected by the cyclone.

“I am informed that its not over yet and everything is being done by our special forces to reach these families that have been affected,” Mnangagwa told reporters on arrival.

He took to his Twitter account and said: “My thought and prayers are with all those affected by cyclone Idai. Rescue operations are underway. We are grateful to the bravery of the men and women of the Zimbabwe armed forces who along with our local and international partners are participating in urgent rescue efforts.”

The President has been criticised for leaving the country at a time he was aware a natural disaster was imminent. However, Mnangagwa later cut short his trip to the United Arab Emirates to deal with the tragedy.

According to the statement, the pupils will need counseling after a harrowing experience.

“The Zimbabwe National Army has rescued the pupils from St Charles Luwanga and they are now at Skyline.

“The first batch of pupils is expected to be in Mutare tomorrow (Tuesday) morning,” the update said.

It called on Zimbabweans to unite in the face of adversity and to help the victims.

“There will be need to ensure that the pupils who endured unimaginable trauma get psychological care. What they witnessed and endured will break any adult, let alone children. Let us unite as we support those who have taken the brunt of cyclone Idai,” government said.

“The untold story of the tragedy that has struck our country due to cyclone Idai is the different life changing injuries suffered by the surviving victims. We thank the medical teams that are working around the clock providing care for the victims.”

Treasury late Monday also disbursed funds to restore infrastructure in the affected areas.

“Treasury has disbursed RTGS$50 million for emergency infrastructure restoration. The Civil Protection Unit (CPU) has been allocated RTGS$3 million, trunk roads and damaged bridges RTGS$25 million, restoration of rural feeder roads and other structures RTGS$7.2 million and RTGS$13 million to education, water and sanitation, health as well as electricity,” it was announced.

Transport Minister Biggie Matiza said he is overseeing the emergency plan to restore road infrastructure and access to the districts affected.

“Currently, we have implemented an emergency response plan which I am overseeing that is aimed at opening up washed away roads and repairing bridges to enable accessibility in Chimanimani in the shortest possible time. Contractors are on the ground as we speak,” said Matiza.

In Mozambique, President Filipe Nyusi said while officially the death toll stood at 84, there was a distinct possibility it could hit 1000.