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Tuesday 20th March 2018

Cyclone Leaves 215 Dead in Southeast Africa, Toll Expected to Rise


Benjamin Schmidt

Tue, 19 Mar 2019 09:36 GMT

215 people have died since tropical cyclone Idai struck southeast Africa on Friday March 15th. Reaching the equivalent strength of a Category One hurricane on March 14th, with sustained winds of over 170 kilometres per hour, Idai brought torrents of rain and wind to a region ill-prepared to deal with the effects of a high-intensity storm.

Widespread flooding and devastation affected the African countries of Madagascar, South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.  

"I think this is the biggest natural disaster Mozambique has ever faced," Mozambique's Environment Minister, Celso Correia, told AFP on Sunday March 17th. "Everything is destroyed." 

The storm is the strongest to arise in the region since 2008 and, breaking records, is the seventh intense tropical cyclone to appear during the 2018-2019 South-West Indian Ocean cyclone season.  

A region unprepared

The storm made landfall near Beira, Mozambique on Friday, a city that is home to more than half a million residents. 90% of the city has been "damaged or destroyed," according to an initial assessment made by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) released on Monday March 18th.

"The scale of devastation is enormous," the IFRC's Jamie LeSueur was quoted as saying in the statement. 

Video footage showed areas that had once been high-density housing have been transformed into rivers of mud filled with people-sized boulders. Aluminum-covered roofs and poorly cemented walls were of little use against the onslaught of wind, rain, and floods.

"The majority of houses, 95 to 97% that collapsed, were fragile houses built with flimsy materials," said one Beira resident interviewed by Reuters.  

The toll by country

89 people are reported dead in Zimbabwe, according to the country's information ministry on Monday.

84 have been reported dead in Mozambique in the Sofala Province, with hundreds of others missing and over 1,000 injured, according to local media. The President of Mozambique, Filipe Nyusi, told the state broadcaster Radio Mozambique that he believed the toll may rise to more than 1,000, according to the Guardian. 

56 are reported dead and 577 others injured in Malawi, according to Reuters. Four have been reported killed in South Africa, according to ZBC News.  

Emergency efforts

Large resources are needed to provide help in areas most affected. The Malawi government has already requested $16.4 million in relief funding and the United Nations and its partners have called for $40.8 million to supply emergency relief aid to the region. UNICEF estimates that $10 million of this is needed to attend to the urgent needs of children.

A Reuters reporter who captured footage in Zimbabwe reported that whole neighbourhoods that have been washed away by the flooding are without water infrastructure and need food supplies. The UN and its partners are working to deliver food supplies and medicines to affected areas by helicopter. 

In addition, the Red Cross has dispatched 7,500 people to the area to help with disaster relief but has warned that, "Given the scale of the disaster, more resources may be needed" to provide for shelter, health, water, sanitation and hygiene needs.