Mozambique on Wednesday started three days of national mourning for more than 200 victims of Cyclone Idai, one of the most destructive storms southern Africa has experienced in decades. In neighboring Zimbabwe, state media said the death toll was above 100.
The full extent of the devastation will only be known once floodwaters from torrential rains, expected to continue into Thursday, recede. It will be days before Mozambique’s inundated plains drain toward the Indian Ocean, and aid groups have warned the waters are still rising.
Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique’s port city of Beira with winds of up to 170 kph (105 mph) on Thursday last week, then moved inland to Zimbabwe and Malawi, flattening buildings and putting the lives of millions of people at risk.
Drone footage showed residents of a shantytown at the port still picking through wreckage days after the storm hit and trying to drag plastic sheeting over their ruined homes.
“Great floods have sowed mourning and devastation in various areas of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi,” Pope Francis said on Wednesday. “I express my pain and closeness to those dear people.”
Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi said a day earlier that the cyclone had killed more than 200 people in his country but rescuers were still discovering more bodies.
In the worst-hit eastern parts of Zimbabwe, grieving families rushed to bury their dead because the cyclone has knocked out power supplies and stopped mortuaries from functioning.
International aid has started trickling in to ease the crisis, while churches in Zimbabwe collected supplies to send on.
“Everyone is doubling, tripling, quadrupling whatever they were planning” in terms of aid, said Caroline Haga of the Red Cross in Beira. “It’s much larger than anyone could ever anticipate.”
On Wednesday, the Emirates News Agency cited the Emirates Red Crescent as saying that the United Arab Emirates would provide 18.3 million dirhams ($4.9 million) to Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi. Zimbabwe’s president said a planeload of aid from the UAE was expected to arrive in the capital, Harare, later Wednesday.
The chairman of the African Union Commission said the continental body would provide $350,000 in immediate support to the countries.
The European Union has released 3.5 million euros ($3.9 million) in emergency aid, and the United Kingdom pledged up to 6 million pounds ($7.9 million). Tanzania’s military has airlifted 238 tons of food and medicine, and three Indian naval ships have been diverted to Beira to help with evacuations of stranded people and other efforts.