Mozambique Flooding: Rescue Operations Swamped, Thousands StrandedAired February 28, 2000 - 2:16 p.m. ET
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NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: In Mozambique, rescue workers are trying to reach thousands of people who are stranded in trees and on rooftops today. A new wave of flooding has swallowed dozens of villages.
CNN's Cynde Strand is in southeastern Africa with the story.
CYNDE STRAND, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): South African military helicopters continued their mission of salvation Monday morning with 3.000 people still stranded. Imprisoned by the flood waters, these people had no car top or roof top to shelter on. They had no food or water.
They've been standing in the water since Saturday night when the Ingoma River again engulfed their homes. The pilot stopped only to refuel between the dangerous rescue flights. So urgent the mission they sometimes carry more than capacity. One pilot said, he just closes his eyes, hits the power, and hopes they lift off.
Too many passengers could cause the helicopters to crash into the water. Children weak from hunger and days of exposure are now the priority. This soldier stood waist deep in water the entire day, his mission: to keep the panic at bay.
Exhausted, they arrive on solid ground with only what they are wearing.
(on camera): There is the relief of safety here but little sanctuary. The people have no shelter, no food, no water, and no idea when they will be going home.
(voice-over): With no idea where to go or what to do, many just stop along the roadside.
"We are so hungry," said this women, "but at least we are alive. In the water, we would surely have died."
After three weeks of flooding, aid organizations are unprepared for a new surge of displaced people. They could barely cope with the river of people heading to two hastily constructed camps. The flood areas are cut off from the capital Maputo, and there is little fuel and few plains to transport food. The next rescue operation here will be to keep the people from starving.
STRAND: Yes, the South African Defense Force estimates that today they have probably rescued more than 2,500 people. And I can only describe their mission here as heroic. For the people trapped, it really is their only lifeline.
Cynde Strand, CNN, Maputo, Mozambique.
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