Mudslides and rocks killed people, 1.5 million affected – Information Minister

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By Staff Reporter/Agencies

MOST of the victims of cyclone Idai were killed by mudslides, falling rocks and trees, a Cabinet Minister has said.

Acting Information Minister Sekai Nzenza told journalists in Mutare that government is now grappling with making sure the dead have a decent burial.

“The reasons for most of the deaths are mudslides, falling rocks from the sides of the roads and mountains as well as trees.

“Some were also killed by ferocious rivers swelling with water and now we are faced with the challenge of burying the dead,” Nzenza said.

Weather experts are warning that a “staggering” amount of rain is set to continue battering parts of southeastern Africa, already devastated by the vicious cyclone that has killed more than 150 people in several countries.

Cyclone Idai has affected more than 1.5 million people in Mozambiqu, Malawi and Zimbabwe, according to officials.

The International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said in a statement on Saturday that at least 126 people had died in Mozambique, Malawi and South Africa after a week of heavy rains and flooding. In Zimbabwe, government announced late Sunday that at least 65 had been confirmed dead with hundreds unaccounted for.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands were cut off from roads and communication lines.

Mozambique’s central port city of Beira was hardest hit, with the airport closed and many homes destroyed.

The IFRC said aid workers were trying to reach the city – Mozambique’s fourth largest and home to some 500,000 people – by road in order to help establish a response operation and assess the damage.

“The extent of the destruction remains unclear, but first-hand information provided by our local colleagues indicate that many parts of Beira have been seriously damaged,” said Jamie LeSueur, IFRC’s head of emergency operations, who is leading the team.

“Houses have been destroyed, trees and electric poles have fallen. Electricity and communications have been cut.”

The storm made landfall on Mozambique last Thursday, with wind gusts of about 160 kilometres per hour, causing ocean waves of up to nine metres high.

‘Further heavy downpours’

Mozambique’s National Meteorological Institute (INAM) has forecast more rains including Manica which borders Zimbabwe.

“INAM forecasts heavy rains, severe thunderstorms and strong winds gusts in the provinces of Sofala and Manica and in some districts of the provinces of Tete, Inhambane as well as Gaza,” a statement said.

Al Jazeera meteorologist Everton Fox said on Sunday that even though the winds had died down, the torrential rains were expected to continue – before stopping next week.

“Over the next three days, we are going to see as much as 900mm of rain,” he said. “That’s a staggering amount of rain that will inevitably cause further problems,” added Fox.

“We are going to see further heavy downpours and the flooding will worsen.”

Amid the warnings, Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi and his Zimbabwean counterpart, Emmerson Mnangagwa, cut short trips abroad to deal with the effects of the powerful cyclone.

The two leaders had both left their countries as the cyclone hit their respective countries, drawing criticism from some who thought they should have stayed at home to address a disaster whose overwhelming magnitude has not been experienced in years.

State radio in Mozambique reported that Nyusi planned to visit affected areas after returning from Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, on Sunday.

Mnangagwa was returning home from the United Arab Emirates “to make sure he is involved directly with the national response by way of relief to victims of Cyclone Idai,”  according to the Information Ministry.