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Death toll rises in Mozambique as extent of ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ from devastating Cyclone Idai becomes clearer

By Eric Leister, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
By Kristina Pydynowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
March 21, 2019, 8:14:19 AM EDT


The total number of fatalities rose above 350 across three countries as communities remain isolated by devastating flooding caused by Tropical Cyclone Idai.

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

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

(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)


The Associated Press has reported that more than 200 people were killed and more than 1.5 million people have been affected by the storm in Mozambique.

Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi told Radio Mozambique on Monday that the number of fatalities from the storm may reach 1,000 in Mozambique.

Officials in Zimbabwe reported that the death toll had climbed above 100 in the country as of Wednesday and that number may climb above 350. Malawi’s government has confirmed 56 deaths as of Tuesday.

Mozambique Idai

This satellite image of Idai was taken on Thursday, March 14, 2019, just prior to the intense tropical cyclone slamming into central Mozambique. (NASA/MODIS Satellite)


“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.

Idai first tracked into north-central Mozambique as a tropical depression with torrential rain during the first week of March before moving back over water and rapidly strengthening over the northern Mozambique Channel last weekend and early this week.

The Red Cross reports that communications were completely severed in Beira, Mozambique's fourth-largest city. Most of the more than 500,000 residents of the city remain without electricity. Early reports indicate roughly 90 percent of the city has been damaged or destroyed.

Access to the city has been limited as all roadways to and from the city have been damaged or submerged by floodwaters.

The city's airport has been turned into the base for rescue operations as it remains one of the few places in the city that has communications.

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Photos emerging from the area show streets littered with downed trees, debris and flooding devastation. Recovery efforts are likely to take weeks or even months due to the extensive damage.

Makeshift medical centers are being built as the main hospital in Beira is not safe for anyone to enter following damage from the storm.

Other communities along the coastline in the northern Zambezi provinces have been cut off from the mainland by storm surge flooding, according to Reuters.


While Idai has weakened to a tropical rainstorm over Mozambique, residents of Mozambique and neighboring Zimbabwe should not let their guard down.

Idai can continue to unload torrential and flooding rain over these areas into Thursday. Ongoing relief efforts have been further hindered by downpours in recent days as swollen rivers continue to block roadways.

Additional flooding can occur in and around the higher terrain along the eastern border of Mozambique and Zimbabwe. These areas can face the AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 760 mm (30 inches), leading to communities being inundated with flood waters and life-threatening mudslides.

Another concern is that dams in the region are now at 95 to 100 percent capacity raising the risk for failure and forcing water to be released into already flooded locations.

Idai 3/19


Drier weather is expected to build into the region slowly later this week and this weekend aiding ongoing recovery efforts.

Download the free AccuWeather app to remain aware of any flooding rain threatening your community.

united nations cyclone idai

This aerial image shows extensive flooding around the city of Beira in Mozambique. (Photo/United Nations)



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