Cyclone Idai batters Zim

DOZENS of people had either been killed or were missing when the Daily News on Sunday went to print last night — while large swathes of the country were in distress — as Cyclone Idai battered Zimbabwe yesterday.

This came after the tropical cyclone reached the country from Mozambique late on Friday night, knocking down trees and destroying key infrastructure and hundreds of homes in the process, mainly in Manicaland.

This in turn followed a week of heavy rains and flooding across south-east Africa that has also killed at least 126 people in Malawi, Mozambique, and South Africa — and affecting more than one million people in the region.

As a result, government was yesterday scrambling for assistance from donors and corporates, after at least 24 people had been reported killed by the violent tropical cyclone, which left a massive trail of destruction in Manicaland.

The death toll was expected to rise as rescue teams continued to search for hundreds of missing people whose numbers is rising.
Acting Manicaland provincial administrator Wilson Boore told the Daily News on Sunday last night that at least 151 people were missing in the province.
This was after the devastating cyclone had triggered heavy rains and storms which swept away schools, bridges and homes in low-lying areas in the province.
Rescue teams, including military personnel, were struggling to evacuate marooned people in areas hit by floods, due to the hostile weather.

“The number of deaths is confirmed at 24, mainly from Chimanimani East … and the fatalities include two students,” Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services secretary Nick Mangwana told the Daily News on Sunday.
He also appealed for aid to help victims of the cyclone, amid the serious difficulties that were being experienced in efforts to access affected areas, and getting relief supplies to the needy.
“In Manicaland, storms are destroying bridges, houses and other forms of shelter.

“In other countries, everyone takes ownership of such disasters. Time we all give something to help the affected people. Anything will help,” Mangwana said further on Twitter.
He added that the government had enlisted the services of the Airforce of Zimbabwe, which offered helicopters to evacuate and search for missing people.

“We have rescue services from the Airforce which is airlifting those in flooded areas to higher ground, where they cannot be affected by the floods,” Mangwana said.
The government had also mobilised other security units, including the army and the police — as well as the Civil Protection Unit (CPU), the fire brigade and ambulances from both the public and private sectors.
Meanwhile, weather experts said yesterday that they had downgraded Cyclone Idai, even though they also warned of more flooding due to the heavy rains expected in affected areas such as Chimanimani and Chiredzi.

Authorities also said last night that they were working to confirm the names of all the deceased people in the region.
International aid agencies, including the UN and the Red Cross, had also begun to undertake emergency humanitarian assistance to some of the affected areas.

Many people travelling in the region had also been left stranded as bridges and roads had been damaged extensively
In Chimanimani, the Roman Catholic Church-run St Charles Lwanga School was among the schools which had been destroyed by the cyclone.
A security guard at the school was also said to be missing.
A landslide which hit the school had buried a dormitory, amid reports that three students were trapped in the rubble — with only one of them rescued alive.

Sections of Chimanimani town’s Ngangu high density area were also buried by landslides, with rescue efforts still going on late last night.
At least three people had been reported to have died in the tragedy.
Jane High, a local hotelier, told the Daily News on Sunday late yesterday of “unspeakable destruction” in the area.
Chimanimani East Zanu PF Member of Parliament, Joshua Sacco, appealed for assistance.

“The situation is drastic and there is need for assistance in tents, food, blankets for affected people. Any assistance will be greatly appreciated,” Sacco said.
He said many villagers had been displaced after Haroni River in Ward 12 had burst its banks.

“The Nyahode River at Kopa Business Centre has also burst its banks, resulting in the flooding of Gata Police Camp and surrounding homes.
“Major rivers like Rusitu are also in flood, affecting villagers in the Vhimba area.

“In ward 15 area, a flash flood and mudslides have resulted in more than 30 houses being washed away. 
“In the old location, five houses have collapsed so far. The villagers at Manase in ward 13 have also had their houses washed away,” Sacco added.

Thankfully, the situation was said to be much calmer in the flood-prone Save Valley region, although some huts had been washed away in the lower basin of the river.
Villagers in Chisumbanje reported relentlessly heavy rains and extremely strong winds which were battering the area.
At least three bridges along the Mutare-Chimanimani highway had also been washed away.

A sombre atmosphere was reported at Nyamusundu Village, under Chief Muusha in Chimanimani, where four people from Gambire and Magora homesteads had died after the houses they were sleeping in collapsed.

A distraught Chief Muusha said he had been inundated by reports of widespread destruction in his area.
He also bemoaned the sweeping away of four bridges in his area, including Biriiri Bridge which connects two schools to the Chimanimani-Mutare highway.

Rusitu Valley was among the worst affected areas, with many bridges swept away and hundreds of people stranded.
Meanwhile, police said they were searching for three people who were reported missing in Chimanimani when their bus was swept away by floods.
National police spokesperson Paul Nyathi said the incident 
occurred near Skyline Area, when the driver of the Trip Trans bus — which had 12 passengers on board — tried to cross a flooded river.
“Nine people survived and are currently seeking shelter at a mountain, while three others who include two women and the conductor, are still missing. The bus is yet to be located from the river.

“Motorists are strongly advised not to cross flooded bridges or any other water point in order to safeguard lives,” Nyathi said.
Zimbabwe experienced its worst floods in living memory in 2000 when Cyclone Eline left a trail of destruction in Manicaland, where more than 136 people were killed and 59 184 houses and huts were damaged.

Apart from the loss of human life and property, 230 dams also burst, leading to severe flooding which led to the deaths of more than 20 000 head of livestock.