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Cyclone Idai Leaves Millions In Need Of Rescue And Other Assistance

Children in a makeshift shelter near Harare, Zimbabwe. Cyclone Idai has displaced thousands in southern Africa.
Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi
Children in a makeshift shelter near Harare, Zimbabwe. Cyclone Idai has displaced thousands in southern Africa.

Humanitarian aid groups are rescuing survivors of Cyclone Idai which swept through Mozambique and Malawi before hitting Zimbabwe. The storm rapidly inundated communities with torrential rain, creating inland oceans in Mozambique.

Sacha Myers of Save the Children, in Mozambique, told NPR, "The situation at the moment, in Mozambique ... is getting worse by the hour. The area is already inundated by floods that hit the area last month. The cyclone has come through. It has destroyed everything in its path." Myers says 100,000 people in Mozambique alone need urgent rescue.

The World Food Program says "inland oceans" in Mozambique extend for "miles and miles in all directions," where survivors cram onto rooftops and cling to trees, waiting to be rescued. "People visible from the air may be the lucky ones," said Herve Verhoosel, Senior Spokesperson for the World Food Program.

Verhoosel told NPR 1.7 million people were in the path of the cyclone in southern Africa, and the biggest problem for aids groups in the region is reaching those who need assistance and rescue.

"All the roads are blocked. A lot of bridges are broken. Even the ports that are open ... All of the machinery of the ports are broken," Verhoosel told NPR, "There is no electricity. No telephone, obviously. No Internet. Access and communication is the first major issue for us to reach people, but also to understand the scale of the problem."

Rising floodwaters have left homes and roads completely submerged, and wiped out water pipelines. Dyson Chifudzeni, National Projects Officer for the Salvation Army in Mozambique, told NPR, "It is very, very serious. All of the household items have been swept away. Their houses have been damaged."

Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe are reporting hundreds dead and injured, and the numbers are expected to rise. Euloge Ishimwei, spokespersonfor the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, told NPR, "So many people have lost their loved ones. So many people have lost everything. They are injured. They are in hospitals."

Torrential rain is expected to continue through Thursday, submerging more communities under water.

Myers said, "We are really concerned about the rising flood levels, and those 100,000 people that need to be rescued. We're expecting the number of people impacted, and the death toll to rise, just because of the level of destruction, and the flood waters that are continuing to engulf communities."

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