Cyclone Idai death toll climbs to 268 in Zimbabwe

Information minister says death toll expected to rise while Mozambique confirms about 1,000 cases of cholera

Women in Chimanimani dry clothes recovered from the rubble after Cyclone Idai, March 19 2019. Picture: ZINYANGE AUNTONY / AFP

Women in Chimanimani dry clothes recovered from the rubble after Cyclone Idai, March 19 2019. Picture: ZINYANGE AUNTONY / AFP

Harare — Zimbabwe on Tuesday launched an official international and domestic appeal for disaster relief aid as the death toll from  Cyclone Idai reached 268.

The storm, one of southern Africa’s worst weather disasters in decades, pounded Mozambique’s port city of Beira before moving inland to Zimbabwe and Malawi, killing about 1,000 people across the three countries.

The tourist town of Chimanimani was hardest hit in Zimbabwe. Entire villages were submerged and schools, clinics and bridges were destroyed.

In a further blow to Zimbabwe’s struggling economy, business in the area, including tourist resorts and coffee, timber and banana plantations, were also razed.

Briefing journalists after a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the death toll was expected to rise further.

“It is saddening that the death toll has increased to 268 and is still expected to rise as the search efforts continue.

“Cabinet approved the launch of a formal appeal for domestic and international disaster relief assistance.”

SA has provided sniffer dogs to help search for bodies. They had so far identified 16 sites containing corpses.

Mutsvangwa noted that a shortage of aircraft was still hampering  efforts to reach areas inaccessible by road.

“Cabinet notes with satisfaction that access to the affected areas is improving. More and more roads are being opened. As a consequence of all these efforts more food and relief assistance is now reaching  affected communities.

Meanwhile, in neighbouring Mozambique authorities confirmed about 1,000 cases of cholera with one fatality. There are fears the disease could spread to Zimbabwe.

Local government minister July Moyo said no cholera cases had been reported yet and authorities had put in place measures to prevent it reaching Zimbabwe. The disease is a common scourge in the country.

“We have supplied the area with water purification chemicals and pills to avert a cholera outbreak. We are also giving people clean bottled water and hygienic foods so that they are not exposed to cholera,” he said

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