By Staff Reporters
FEARS abound of possible crippling fuel and wheat shortages in Zimbabwe after cyclone Idai destroyed some “90 percent” of the Mozambican Port city of Beira.
Beira is a key route for delivery of goods into Zimbabwe and central Africa.
While authorities in Zimbabwe remained mum, Monday, reports indicated the situation could quickly deteriorate if the weather does not change for the better in the next few days given the destruction witnessed in the Mozambican Port City.
Social media was awash with messages of the impending shortages. Fuel shortages are likely to cause panic across Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and the DRC in particular.
“There could be fuel shortages this coming week for most provinces in central Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and DRC as the road to Beira and two bridges have been destroyed by the furious cyclone along Chimoio-Beira road.
“Use fuel sparingly, be warned and advised,” read one of the messages.
A visit to the neighbouring country by NewZimbabwe.com suggested the fears could be founded.
The bridge in Nhamatanga (Sofala province) was swept away leaving both locals and foreign nationals coming from Beira stranded.
“There is nothing we can do for now because there are no roads to talk of. We will have to wait for the Mozambican authorities to start the repairs or put up temporary bridges,” said Mark Marowa who was driving a fuel tanker to Zimbabwe.
Another driver Ricky Munamati said the carnage caused by the cyclone could trigger shortages.
“The situation will cause shortages of imported commodities such as wheat and fuel. This could result in higher prices of bread and fuel inland,” said Munamati.
Fuel queues have become a common feature in the country blamed on foreign currency shortages. Even a 150% increase in price of the precious liquid did little to solve the problem. The increases triggered a domino effect in the market leading to violent protests that left 17 people dead and dozens injured.
Energy Minister Joram Gumbo said he was not feeling well and could not comment.
“I am at home and not feeling well. I will be off duty for a week,” said Gumbo.
A few weeks ago when claims of looming fuel price increases were being circulating, Gumbo warned of “alarmist messages”.
It was not immediately clear who was acting in his stead.
Agriculture Minister Perrance Shiri also refused to comment on whether wheat imports will be affected. Shiri, who is Acting Defence Minister, said his focus is on rescue efforts underway to help trapped villagers in Chaimanimani.
“We are still concentrating all efforts towards rescue operations. I cannot comment on that at the present moment as I am in rural Chimanimani,” Shiri, who is part of a ministerial delegation dealing with the devastating effects of the cyclone, told NewZimbabwe.com.
A poor rail network in Zimbabwe and Mozambique has forced the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) to hire trucks to transport wheat imports from Beira to Harare.
GMAZ media officer Garikai Chaunza told NewZimbabwe.com that they were yet to assess the situation and could only communicate any developments after the planned assessment.
“The chairman (Tafadzwa Musarara) is assessing the situation and we will issue a statement thereafter,” said Chaunza adding there “are tonnes of wheat destined for Zimbabwe at Beira”.
Beira bore the brunt of the cyclone that has, thus far, claimed the lives of more than 200 people in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi. But Zimbabwe seems to have been hardest hit in terms of human cost with nearly 100 now officially confirmed dead and hundreds reported missing by late Monday.
Idai cut off Beira City from the rest of Mozambique after a nearby dam reportedly burst its banks and washed away the last road into the Port City on Sunday, following four days of torrential rainfall.
There has been growing concern on whether Zimbabwe has enough fuel and wheat to last through the disaster.
Trucks, which frequent the Forbes Border Post with goods such as the much-needed wheat and fuel, have been forced to park on road sides as fear of possible landslides and accidents increase.