Cyclone Idai death toll rises to over 550

Photo: AP

Reports from the United Nations and African governments say Cyclone Idai's death toll has risen to over 550 people.

A U.N. official says Cyclone Idai has killed 242 people in Mozambique and 56 people in Malawi, according to government reports. Another 259 deaths have been cited in Zimbabwe from the country's defense minister.

Gemma Connell, head of the U.N. humanitarian office for southern and eastern Africa, said Thursday from Mozambique's capital of Maputo that those figures are expected to rise, especially in Mozambique, where many areas remain inundated.

Connell visited the Mozambique city of Beira on Wednesday and flew over affected areas including the town of Buzi, which was under water for several days after the cyclone hit March 14. She says there is still the threat of secondary floods.

She said Cyclone Idai has created "a hugely complex situation" that requires "an even more complex response." She urged nations to donate as much as possible to help those left hungry and homeless.

‘There is death all over’: Cyclone Idai toll rises above 300

Mozambique began three days of national mourning on Wednesday for more than 200 victims of Cyclone Idai, while the death toll in neighboring Zimbabwe rose to more than 100 from one of the most destructive storms to strike southern Africa in decades.

Torrential rains were expected to continue into Thursday and floodwaters were still rising, according to aid groups trying to get food, water and clothing to desperate survivors.

It will be days before Mozambique’s inundated plains drain toward the Indian Ocean and even longer before the full scale of the devastation is known.

Photos: AP

People have been clinging to trees and huddling on rooftops since the cyclone roared in over the weekend, and aid groups were desperately trying to rescue as many as they can.

The United Nations humanitarian office said the town of Buzi, with some 200,000 people, was at risk of becoming at least partially submerged.

“Floodwaters are predicted to rise significantly in the coming days and 350,000 people are at risk,” the U.N. office said.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa received a somber welcome in the hard-hit mountain community of Chimanimani near the border with Mozambique.

Zimbabwean officials have said some 350 people may have died.
Hundreds are dead, many more missing and thousands at risk from massive flooding in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe caused by Cyclone Idai and persistent rains.

“We do not want to hear that anyone has died of hunger,” Mnangagwa said.

Clutching a bag of his few remaining possessions, Amos Makunduwa described the devastation with one stark sentence. “There is death all over,” he said.

“It is beginning to smell really bad,” he added.

“The whole area is like one big body of water, huge rocks and mud. There are no houses, as if no one ever stayed here.”

The force of the flood waters swept some victims from Zimbabwe down the mountainside into Mozambique, officials said.

“Some of the peasants in Mozambique were calling some of our people to say, ‘We see bodies, we believe those bodies are coming from Zimbabwe,’” said a local government minister, July Moyo.

Entire villages were swept away, said Gen. Joe Muzvidziwa, who was leading the military’s rescue efforts in Zimbabwe.

Some people had been out at beer halls when the cyclone hit and came home to find nothing left.

Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi said late Tuesday that more than 200 people were confirmed dead in his country.

After flying over the affected region on Monday, he said he expected the death toll to be more than 1,000.

Aid workers were shocked as they arrived in the Mozambique port city of Beira, estimated to be 90 percent destroyed.

The 500,000 residents of the city, which has some neighborhoods that are below sea level, were scrambling for food, fuel and medicine.

“The power of the cyclone is visible everywhere, with shipping containers moved like little Lego blocks,” said Marc Nosbach, Mozambique country director for the aid group CARE.

In footage shot by South African broadcaster eNCA, food and other supplies were dropped from a helicopter to a survivor standing waist-deep in water outside Beira.

Another man clinging to a tree branch was hoisted to safety.

Rescuers cradled small children, keeping them warm.

Meanwhile, international aid started trickling in.

“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.”

The United Arab Emirates pledged $4.9 million to Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, the Emirates News Agency reported, citing the Emirates Red Crescent.

Norway said it was providing $700,000.

The chairman of the African Union Commission said it would provide $350,000 in immediate support to the countries, and the United Nations allocated $20 million.

The European Union released $3.9 million in emergency aid, and Britain pledged up to $7.9 million.

Tanzania’s military has sent 238 tons of food and medicine, and three Indian naval ships have been diverted to Beira to help with evacuations and other efforts.

Sacha Myers of the nonprofit Save the Children described overflowing rivers and dams, and said getting in aid was difficult, with roads and bridges washed away or submerged in the region.

Hunger and illness were growing concerns, with crops destroyed and waterborne diseases likely to spread.

“There are large areas where people are really finding it difficult to find sources of clean water,” said Gert Verdonck, the emergency coordinator for Doctors Without Borders in Beira.

“On top of all of that, there’s the issue of how to treat people who fall sick, with so many health centers damaged or destroyed.”

Boeing 737 MAX to face first congressional hearing
AFP
Boeing's ill-fated 737 MAX and federal regulators next week will face the first public grilling by Congress over the two fatal plane crashes in recent months.

Senator Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican, called for a hearing of the Commerce Subcommittee on Aviation and Space, for March 27, with three transportation officials, notably the acting head of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Cruz intends to hold a second hearing to question Boeing officials as well as pilots and others in the industry, according to the statement.

More than 300 people perished in the two crashes of 737 MAX 8s that occurred shortly after takeoff in Indonesia in October and in Ethiopia earlier this month.

Boeing and the FAA are under investigation by the Transportation Department for how the rollout of the jet was handled, especially the a new flight system, the MCAS stall-prevention system, which was implicated in the Lion Air crash in October.

Pilots have complained they were not informed about the new system, which can force the nose of the plane down if it gets an erroneous reading from a sensor making it appear the plane is at risk of stalling.

The committee will hear next week from FAA acting chief Daniel Elwell, as well as the Transportation Department's chief investigator, Calvin Scovel, and National Transportation Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt.

The FAA said Wednesday it will review the information from the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder from the Ethiopian Airlines accident as it becomes available.

"Understanding the circumstances that contributed to this accident is critical in developing further actions and returning aircraft to service," the FAA said.

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