By Leopold Munhende
GOVERNMENT has assembled a team of pathologists to be deployed to Mozambique to identify some 158 Zimbabwean victims of last month’s deadly Cyclone Idai who are now buried in the neighbouring country.
This was said by Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa at a post cabinet briefing in Harare on Tuesday where a report on the situation in the disaster hit eastern region was presented by Local Government Minister July Moyo.
“Cabinet wishes to advice that a team of pathologists will travel to Mozambique to collect samples of the remains of Zimbabweans who were buried there in order to facilitate the conduct of DNA tests and the subsequent positive identification by their relatives,” said Mutsvangwa.
Mozambican villagers first contacted fellow villagers in Rusitu, Manicaland informing them of floating bodies a few days after the disaster.
Ngangu, Kopa and Chikukwa were the hardest hit after two rivers which converge at Kopa burst, causing intense flooding in most parts of the area.
Effects of the cyclone in some of the remote areas are yet to be determined with Chipinge district administrator William Mashava telling journalists that there could be deaths in the region of 500 on Monday.
Minister Moyo said Tuesday that they abandoned their search and rescue operations and will be concentrating all efforts towards the retrieval of trapped bodies believed to be under heavy boulders.
“This is three weeks, going into the fourth week after the disaster has happened and we think that the publicity has been very thorough. If somebody is alive, we presume families would have found them.
“We already know for instance that 158 people have been buried in Mozambique. So we are no longer presuming but we want to go and see whether we can identify them.
“We have already taken blood from relatives who are saying they are missing people which we will do using DNA so that families decide what they want to do with the bodies…we are no longer searching,” said Moyo.
Government has sent appeals for $612 million to feed the thousands who were displaced by Cyclone Idai and have lost their homes and livelihoods.
Food distribution to far flung areas in the mountainous region is still a challenge according to Moyo and government is still using army helicopters to drop food aid.