Aid workers are scrambling to get food and water to desperate survivors of the devastating cyclone that hit Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, as thousands remain trapped by floods.
Some people in the Mozambique port city of Beira are still clinging onto rooftops or trees almost a week after Cyclone Idai struck.
At least 217 people have died in Mozambique alone, the country’s environment minister Celso Correia said. Some 3,000 have been helped to safety, while 15,000 are still waiting to be rescued.
Large parts of Mozambique have been engulfed after the cyclone smashed into its low-lying coastal areas, while heavy rains caused landslides and floods in Malawi and Zimbabwe.
Some 2.6 million people are believed to have been affected after the storm swept through the region with winds of up to 105mph (170kmh).
Torrential rains are expected to continue into Thursday and floodwaters are still rising, according to aid groups.
In Zimbabwe, helicopters have been transporting aid to communities in the most severely affected area of Chimanimani and rescuing those in desperate need of medical care.
“We have head injuries, some with fractures, broken limbs. Some also have broken pelvises or hips,” said volunteer doctor Themba Nyoni at Chipinge Hospital.
He also warned survivors may be permanently scarred by the disaster once their physical injuries have healed.
“We may treat the wounds now but there are a lot of mental health issues that will arise from this,” he said.
“We have heard some of the stories from the local people. Some of them, they have lost their whole family. Some have lost children.”
At least 500 people have been reported missing in the valleys of Chimanimani and rescuers are in a race against time to reach them.
The Disasters Emergency Committee has launched a fundraising appeal for victims.
More than 480 people have so far been confirmed dead and 400,000 are now homeless across the affected countries, according to DEC.
Those figures are likely to rise significantly as more victims are found, and the UN has said it could become one of the worst weather-related disasters ever in the southern hemisphere.
UNICEF, the UN children’s agency, says 260,000 children are affected in Mozambique alone, the country that bore the brunt of the cyclone.
“Many people are in desperate situations, several thousand are fighting for their lives at the moment sitting on rooftops, in trees and other elevated areas,” said the agency’s Christophe Boulierac.
“This includes families and obviously many children.”
DEC raises money on behalf of 14 UK charities when there is a major disaster and helps ensure aid gets to those in need as quickly as possible.
The committee says the cash will be used to provide items such as emergency shelter kits, food, water purification tablets and emergency healthcare.
The UK government has pledged £18m in support.
People surrounded by water and mud are now at threat of pneumonia and waterborne diseases as they wait for rescue.
The worst-affected areas were near the Buzi river, west of Beira in Mozambique, said Caroline Haga from the International Federation of Red Cross
Two rivers including the Buzi have burst, sending torrents of water into the country and creating a “second emergency”.
“The flooding is completely different in that this is now a matter of life or death,” said Ms Haga.