Photos: what Mozambique’s unfolding flooding catastrophe looks like

People from the isolated district of Buzi take shelter in the Samora M. Machel secondary school used as an evacuation center in Beira, Mozambique, on March 21, 2019, following the devastation caused by Cyclone Idai. 

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.)

 European Space Agency
The extent of flooding, depicted in red, around the port town of Beira in Mozambique on 19 March. This mission is also supplying imagery through the Copernicus Emergency Mapping Service to aid relief efforts.

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.

You can help the victims of Cyclone Idai by donating to UNICEF, the International Medical CorpsGlobal Giving’s relief fundSave the Childrenthe Red Cross, or Doctors Without Borders.

Over the past few days, photojournalists have been able to gain better access to the impacted areas. Here’s what the situation looks like.

 Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images
People from the town of Buzi unload at Beira Port after being rescued on March 22, 2019, in Beira, Mozambique. Thousands of people are still stranded after after Cyclone Idai hit the country last week.
 Max Bearak/The Washington Post via Getty Images
A flooded area outside of Beira, Mozambique, seen on March 21, 2019. The area was hit by unprecedented flooding following the passage of Cyclone Idai.
 Max Bearak/The Washington Post via Getty Images
A flooded area outside of Beira, Mozambique.
 Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images
People collect metal sheets from a damaged supermarket to rebuild their destroyed houses following the devastation in Beira, Mozambique, on March 21, 2019.
 Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images
Children play on a container overturned by Cyclone Idai in Beira, Mozambique, March 21, 2019.
 Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images
People from the isolated district of Buzi take shelter in the Samora M. Machel secondary school used as an evacuation center in Beira, Mozambique, on March 21, 2019.
 Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images
People take part in collecting sacks of Chinese rice printed “China Aid” from a warehouse, which is surrounded by water after cyclone hit in Beira, Mozambique, on March 20, 2019.
 Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images
The scene around sacks of Chinese rice.
 Tafadzwa Ufumeli/Getty Images
Water levels begin to drop in area flooded days earlier in Chipinge, Zimbabwe.
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