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Zimbabwe comes to terms with grim scale of damage

by Staff reporter
19 Mar 2019 at 18:17hrs | Views
ZIMBABWEANS are slowly coming to full terms with the horrific scale of devastation that Cyclone Idai wreaked in the country — amid confirmation late yesterday that torrential rains and landfalls had claimed the lives of at least 98 people over the past few days, the Daily News can report.

And as the weather began to clear somewhat yesterday, authorities stepped up their rescue efforts, particularly in the hard-hit Chimanimani and Chipinge districts of Manicaland, where traumatised villagers described the cyclone as the biggest natural disaster to have hit the area in living memory.

There, flood storms, mudslides and winds of up to 170 km per hour swept away homes, schools, roads, bridges and other key infrastructure — forcing thousands of people to seek shelter and to sleep in mountains since last Friday night.

"I've lived all my life here and I've never seen anything like this, not even close. It was so bad that it was like the end of the world. My family is alive only because God is good," a 63-year-old Chipinge North villager told the Daily News last night.

The government said apart from the 98 deaths  217 people were missing while 102 were injured and 42 marooned.

It said yesterday that it would use $50 million raised from its two cents per dollar transaction tax to help victims of Cyclone Idai and to repair badly-damaged roads — as the country began to count the costs of the devastating storms.

This came as the death toll had risen to at least 98 by yesterday — with hundreds more injured and scores others still missing — following the ongoing rescue operations in Manicaland, Masvingo and Mashonaland East.

Authorities said the cost of human loss, injuries and infrastructure damage was of "epic proportions", necessitating the release  of emergency funds by Treasury to provide relief to thousands of affected and displaced villagers.

"This is a tragedy of epic proportions. The government is going to fall back on the funds realised from the two percent tax to provide aid to the affected.

"However, any help will be very much appreciated," the permanent secretary in the Information ministry, Nick Mangwana, told the Daily News yesterday.

He also said that the army had rescued 197 students who were stranded at the Roman Catholic Church-run St Charles Lwanga School — who were marooned at the school when a dormitory was buried in a mudslide.

While rescue missions continued to scour flooded villages for missing people, the government said most roads to Chimanimani had been badly damaged, hampering the delivery of much-needed relief aid.

Police also warned motorists not to visit the affected areas as this was contributing to congestion, which was making it difficult for relief workers to distribute foodstuffs and other essentials such as water and blankets.

The worst-affected roads were the Chipinge-Chimanimani thoroughfare, the Wengezi-Chimanimani road and the Mt Selinda-Birchenough Bridge highway.

On its part, the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society said it had mobilised significant emergency essentials for affected villagers in the region, working closely with the Civil Protection Unit to deliver these.

Among other things, it had delivered 500 blankets, 500 tarpaulins for temporary shelter, 20 boxes of soap, mosquito nets, 300 buckets, 115 compressible jerry cans and clothes by the end of day yesterday.

At the same time, the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) also announced that the cyclone had cut off water supplies to thousands of people in Manicaland and Masvingo provinces.

"Stations that have been affected are mostly in the Save catchment area, which covers mostly Manicaland Province, as well as Runde Catchment in Masvingo Province.

Stations that stand affected in the Save Catchment are Murambinda, Checheche, Birchenough Bridge, Nyanyadzi, Chakohwa, Chibuwe, Matendeudze, Biriwiri, Murambinda, Buhera, Nyanga, Tanganda, Zimunya and Mutasa.

"Also affected are Gutu, Zaka, Mutimurefu and Ngundu water supply stations in Runde Catchment," Zinwa communcations manager, Marjorie Munyonga, said.

"Meanwhile, the recently constructed Marowanyati Dam in Murambinda is now full and spilling as a result of the heavy rains received in its catchment due to the cyclone.

"The spilling of the dam raises the water levels in Mwerahari River and communities along that river are advised to be on high alert," Munyonga added.

Meanwhile, United Nations (UN) secretary-general Antonio Guterres says he is "deeply troubled" by the loss of life in Zimbabwe after Cyclone Idai killed 98 people and injured scores others in the country.

"The secretary-general extends his condolences to the families of the victims and to people and government of Zimbabwe.

"The UN expresses its solidarity with the Zimbabwe authorities and stands ready to work with them as they respond to the humanitarian needs resulting from this disaster," Stephane Dujarric, the spokesperson for the secretary-general said yesterday.

On his part, opposition leader Nelson Chamisa's tour of the cyclone-hit Manicaland region was cut short after police barred him from proceeding to Chipinge.

MDC officials said a roadblock had been hurriedly set up at Tanganda Junction to stop his entourage which had more than $20 000 worth of goods for cyclone victims — including clothes and some basic commodities.

Chamisa was accompanied by his deputy Elias Mudzuri, secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora, spokesperson Jacob Mafume, MDC youth leader Happymore Chidziwa and the Manicaland provincial executive, among other people.

The barring of the convoy almost sparked a melee, after a Zanu-PF vehicle also arrived at the roadblock — with local people also demanding that it also be barred from proceeding.

Speaking earlier while he was  inspecting the washed away Tanganda Halt bridge, Chamisa implored Zimbabweans to foster national unity.

"We need to rise above party politics and unite for the national interest in a time like this," he said.

Zimbabwe experienced some of its worst floods in living memory in 2000 when cyclone Eline left a trail of destruction in Manicaland, where more than 136 people were killed and 59 184 huts damaged.

Apart from the loss of human life and property, 230 dams also burst then, leading to severe flooding which caused the deaths of more than 20 000 head of livestock.



Source - dailynews

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