Cyclone Idai flood catastrophe: Estimates of more than 1,000 dead as 'inland ocean' forms in Mozambique

By Kristina Pydynowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
By Adam Douty, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
March 25, 2019, 4:06:21 AM EDT


More than 1,000 people are feared dead in Mozambique and Zimbabwe as the flood catastrophe caused by Tropical Cyclone Idai persists. Drier weather is expected to finally return later this weekend.

The confirmed death toll from Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi has surpassed 750, according to CNN.

Many more are feared dead.

(Photo/European Space Agency)

This image is from Copernicus Sentinel-1 and shows the extent of flooding, depicted in red, around the port town of Beira in Mozambique on March 19, 2019.

(AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Schoolchildren are stranded across a collapsed bridge in Chimanimani, southeast of Harare, Zimbabwe, Monday, March 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

(AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

An elderly woman stands next to a collapsed bridge in Chimanimani, about 600 kilometers southeast of Harare, Zimbabwe, Monday, March 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

(AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

A man carries loaves of bread across a collapsed bridge in Chimanimani, southeast of Harare, Zimbabwe, Monday, March 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

(AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Police keep a close watch as a loader clears the road in Chimanimani, southeast of Harare, Zimbabwe, Monday, March 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

(AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Soldiers carry supplies to areas affected by Cyclone Idai in Chimanimani, about 600 kilometers southeast of Harare, Zimbabwe, Monday, March 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

(AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

A man stands on the edge of a collapsed bridge in Chimanimani, about 600 kilometers southeast of Harare, Zimbabwe, Monday, March 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

(AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

People trudge through a muddied path to safer ground in Chimanimani, about 600 kilometers southeast of Harare, Zimbabwe, Monday, March 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

(AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

A collapsed road near a bridge is seen in Chimanimani, southeast of Harare, Zimbabwe, Monday, March 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)


Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi estimated that 1,000 people of his country may have been killed, but Elhadj As Sy, the secretary-general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), told the AP that number may be exceeded.

Idai barreled onshore north of Beira, Mozambique, late last week with its strength equivalent to a Category 3 major hurricane in the Atlantic or eastern Pacific oceans.

Mozambique March 22


Dry weather is expected to remain across the region through Tuesday. A cold front could spark isolated thunderstorms on Wednesday, though this is not expected to worsen the ongoing flooding.

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Floodwaters are reportedly starting to recede in the hard-hit city of Beira, Mozambique, but it will take days for all of the runoff from the flooding across the region to drain into the Indian Ocean.

Tropical Cyclone Joaninha in the southern Indian Ocean will not threaten land.


The number of people affected by the cyclone may rise from the current estimate of 2 million, according to Oxfam International.

About 65,000 people have been rescued in Mozambique, the AP reported. Many were found clinging to trees and waiting on rooftops.

Fox News reported Environment minister Celso Correia said that as of Sunday nearly 110,000 people are now in camps, more than a week after Cyclone Idai hit.

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More than 900,000 were displaced by flooding in Malawi, while it is estimated that 200,000 people would need food assistance through the start of summer in Zimbabwe.

Ninety percent of the port city of Beira was destroyed, but people from other parts of the country are traveling to the city for aid.

"Food prices are sky-rocketing [in Beira],” said Rotafina Donco, Oxfam Country Director in Mozambique. Those rescued from the city and now living in transit camps have been without food for days, she said.


Health concerns are mounting as water and sanitation systems were largely destroyed in Beira, the AP stated. Diseases may begin to spread across the affected areas and may soon because a significant threat.

Satellite images and other footage from the area continue to reveal the magnitude of this catastrophe.

A United Nations official described "an inland ocean" to have formed in central Mozambique as rivers overflowed their banks around Lake Urema, the New York Times reported.

“This is the worst humanitarian crisis in Mozambique’s recent history," said Jamie LeSueur, who is coordinating relief efforts for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. "It is a humanitarian catastrophe for the people of Central Mozambique. Large parts of Beira have been damaged, entire villages and towns have been completely flooded. Rescuers are scrambling to pull people trapped on rooftops and in trees to safety. Many, many families have lost everything,” LeSueur said.

Mozambique declared a state of emergency and three days of mourning due to the deadly impacts of Idai.

nasa mozambique

This map shows rainfall accumulation from March 13 to March 20, 2019 across Mozambique and surrounding areas. (Image/NASA)


Mercy Corps said it was delivering aid to affected regions of eastern Zimbabwe, including the Chipinge district in Manicaland province. Aid groups are delivering essential items such as emergency water, hygiene and sanitation supplies.

A previously impassable route was cleared to Chimanimani, one of the areas hardest hit by the cyclone in Zimbabwe.

"Manicaland province is dominated by rugged mountains so getting to affected communities is not straightforward. With bridges destroyed, we have to rely on air support to transport our urgent relief the final mile.”

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