By Hassan Isilow
JOHANNESBURG (AA) - Cyclone Idai has caused massive damage across Southern Africa five days after making landfall in Mozambique, creating a major humanitarian emergency, UN agencies said Tuesday.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the cyclone, which made landfall in Mozambique’s port city of Beira on Thursday with winds of up to 177 kilometers per hour (110 miles per hour), has killed several people and left many homeless.
“Beira City has suffered extensive damage according to reports from preliminary assessments and aerial overviews,” OCHA said in a statement.
“Outside of Beira, a dam collapsed on March 17, reportedly causing extensive damage. People reportedly sought refuge on the tops of their roofs and in trees as rising floodwaters swept through the area,” the UN agency said.
It said as of Tuesday, at least 84 people were confirmed dead following Idai’s landfall but added that Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi said he believes the death toll could reach at least 1,000.
"Everything indicates that we may register more than 1,000 deaths," Nyusi said Monday in an address to the nation.
The president made the comments on Radio Mozambique a day after flying over disaster-hit areas to view the destruction.
Tens of thousands of people have lost their homes, crops have been washed away and roads have been damaged across Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, according to UN statements and local media.
OCHA further said that at least 267 classrooms and 24 health units had reportedly been affected in Mozambique’s provinces of Sofala, Manica, Zambezia and Inhambane.
The UN agency said many areas in Mozambique remain without electricity and almost every network has been severely damaged.
“The Beira Central Hospital emergency wing remains non-operational due to significant damage,” OCHA said, adding roads and bridges had also been destroyed.
According to local media reports, several people were seen floating in the water after rivers burst their banks in parts of Mozambique while others were either clinging to tress or rooftops as they waited to be rescued.
The World Food Programme (WFP) said in a statement Monday that it hoped to provide food assistance to over half a million people in Mozambique alone.
The UN agency further said that floodwaters have begun receding in Zimbabwe and Malawi, allowing some people to return home, but warned that Mozambique is facing “a major humanitarian emergency that is getting bigger by the hour”.
In Zimbabwe, Local Government Minister July Moyo told reporters in Harare on Tuesday that the death toll has risen to 98 and there are fears it could increase further.
He said several people were also missing, adding he had received reports that there were several bodies floating in the Rusitu River near Mozambique.
Meanwhile, 56 deaths and 577 injuries have been recorded in Malawi as a result of heavy rains, according to local authorities.
*John Cassim contributed to this report from Harare, Zimbabwe