At least 31 people have been killed and dozens are reported missing in parts of eastern Zimbabwe after a tropical cyclone ripped through the country.
“We have lost 31 Zimbabweans,” the Ministry of Information tweeted Twitter Saturday, adding that people have been “swept away” in the flooding that has claimed dozens of homes and caused huge infrastructure damage.
The country’s Civil Protection Unit is leading the rescue, with assistance from the Zimbabwe Red Cross and the International Organization for Migration, according to officials.
Forty people are missing, the government said.
Speaking to local media, Zimbabwe Red Cross Operations Director Karikoga Kutadzaushe said the situation is “quite dire,” adding that people displaced by the devastation are in immediate need of shelter. Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Information said Saturday that “two command centers have been established” to take in those rescued from the worst affected areas.
The Ngangu Township in Chimanimani and the Rusitu Valley community were the hardest hit, officials said.
Videos posted on social media show extreme flooding, dilapidated homes and stuck vehicles.
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa reportedly has shortened his state visit to the United Arab Emirates to ensure that he is “involved directly” in the national response. He has declared a state of disaster in affected areas, the information ministry tweeted.
The government’s official spokesperson has called it a “serious humanitarian crisis.”
Cyclone Idai made landfall in Mozambique on Thursday, the World Meteorological Organization said. It affected tens of thousands of people across the country and neighboring Malawi.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said Saturday that while the impact has yet to be established, initial reports indicate “loss of life and significant damage to infrastructure.”
UN officials estimate that severe flooding has affected 1.5 million people in Mozambique and Malawi, where more than 120 people reportedly have been killed.