Flooding following Cyclone Idai has left hundreds dead and tens of thousands displaced in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi.
A catastrophe is unfolding in the wake of Cyclone Idai, which hit the southern African countries of Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi last week.
The storm brought intense, flooding rain and an estimated 13 feet of deadly storm surge to some coastal areas in Mozambique. The result of all that water: An “inland ocean” has formed near the Mozambique coastal city of Beira. It’s a huge amount of water, measuring around 80 miles long by 15 miles wide. The European Space Agency captured the extent of the flooding via satellite on March 19 (the flooded areas are in red.)
In Mozambique, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimatesthat 242 people have died (and the numbers are likely to continue to rise). Some 1,500 are injured, and 65,000 people are living in shelters. Additionally, more than 17,400 homes have been destroyed by the storm. Beira, a city with a population of 400,000, continues to be without power and is only accessible by air and sea.
The situation is dire. “The scale of devastation is enormous. It seems that 90 percent of the area [in Beira] is completely destroyed,” Jamie LeSueur of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said in a press statement. “We expect that the number of people affected as well as the number of people who have lost their lives may rise.”
Zimbabwe and Malawi are also reeling from the storm. In Zimbabwe, the UN reports, 102 people are dead and 217 are missing. An additional 200,000 people in the Chimanimani district of Zimbabwe (where the storm hit) are believed to need urgent food aid over the next few months, the Guardian reports. In Malawi, 56 people are reported dead and 82,700 people are displaced. “We are working round the clock to save the lives of those who survived and are facing incredible hardship,” the UN’s World Food Programme says.
More trouble may be coming. Where there’s flooding and poor sanitation, disease follows. The IFRC reports there are now cases of cholera — a bacterial infection that spreads when drinking water is tainted with feces — in Beira.
“Already, some cholera cases have been reported in Beira along with an increasing number of malaria infections among people trapped by the flooding,” the IFRC said in a statement.
A week after the storm, there are also still people around Beira waiting on rooftops to be rescued. “They are alive, we are communicating with them, delivering food, but we need to rescue them and take them out,” Celso Ismael Correia, Mozambique’s minister of land, environment, and rural development, told reporters. “Our biggest fight is against the clock.” He says 15,000 people still need to be rescued.
Over the past few days, photojournalists have been able to gain better access to the impacted areas. Here’s what the situation looks like.