Cyclone death toll rises as aid workers rescue more African survivors

A week after a cyclone ripped through southern Africa and triggered devastating floods that have killed hundreds of people and displaced hundreds of thousands ,rescue workers plucked more survivors from trees and roofs to safety on Thursday

The death toll in Mozambique has since risen to 217 and around 15,000 people, many of them very ill, still need to be rescued, this is according to Land and Environment Minister Celso Correia

“Our biggest fight is against the clock,” Correia told a news conference, adding that 3,000 had so far been rescued.

In neighbouring Zimbabwe, the death toll jumped to 139. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), which is coordinating food drops, said 200,000 Zimbabweans would need urgent food aid for three months. In Malawi 56 people were confirmed dead.

“This is a catastrophe… Cyclone Idai has destroyed so much in an instance and it will take years for people to recover what they have lost,” said Edgar Jone, country director in Mozambique for the Christian aid charity Tearfund.

Helicopters whirred above the turbid, reddish-brown flood waters searching for people to ferry back to the port city of Beira, the main headquarters for the huge rescue operation.

With more rains forecast, Christian worshippers sang hymns on an empty tract of land where a pulpit was all that remained of their pentecostal church.

“… here in Beira, all the churches have collapsed from this cyclone… Oh my dear brothers, please pray for us,” said Pastor Luis Semente. “Only God can restore this.”

With some flood waters starting to recede, Environment Minister Correia said, the priority now was to deliver food and other supplies to people rather than take people out of the affected areas, although that was also still happening.