The death toll from a cyclone that smashed into Mozambique and Zimbabwe rose to more than 300 as rescuers raced against the clock to help survivors and the UN led the charge to provide aid, Agence France-Presse reported.
“We already have more than 200 dead, and nearly 350,000 people are at risk,” Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi announced on Tuesday, while the government in Zimbabwe said around 100 people had died but the toll could be three times that figure.
The United Nations, meanwhile, said that one of the worst storms to hit southern Africa in decades had also unleashed a humanitarian crisis in Malawi, affecting nearly a million people and forcing more than 80,000 from their homes.
According to The Associated Press, international aid has started trickling into the east African countries of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi to ease the humanitarian crisis created by floodwaters from Cyclone Idai.
“Everyone is doubling, tripling, quadrupling whatever they were planning,” said Caroline Haga of the Red Cross in Beira, Mozambique, referring to supplies and aid workers. “It’s much larger than anyone could ever anticipate.”
The European Union released 3.5 million euros ($3.9 million) in emergency aid, and the United Kingdom pledged up to 6 million pounds ($8 million). Neighboring Tanzania’s military airlifted 238 metric tons of food and medicine.
Matthew Pickard of the humanitarian organization CARE said the response to Idai has been similar to prior natural disasters. Local authorities and international nongovernmental organizations worked their way to the area in the first days, with additional aid destined to arrive soon after. The slow-moving catastrophe of the flooding and the inability to access some of the hardest-hit areas has limited the ability of some to see the scale of the cyclone. But, Pickard said, as those details become clearer, aid will spike.
“Over the next few days we’ll learn just how big it is,” he said by phone from Lilongwe, Malawi. “These are countries that are not usually making headlines and they’re making headlines. With the story comes people’s intent to respond empathetically.”
Sacha Myers of nongovernmental aid organization Save the Children, speaking from Maputo, Mozambique, described rising floodwaters, “rivers and dams bursting their banks” and a death toll in the hundreds that was destined to climb.
She was awaiting the arrival of a cargo plane carrying 51 tons of emergency supplies, but said getting them where they needed to go remained difficult with roads washed away or submerged and few options for storage in dry areas.
“We’re having an unfolding crisis that’s getting worse and worse,” she said.