Over 1,000 feared dead after cyclone slams into Mozambique

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A rescued man cracks jokes while being carried on a stretcher bed by friends on March 18, 2019 in Ngangu township, Chimanimani, Manicaland Province, eastern Zimbabwe, after the area was hit by the cyclone Idai. (AFP)
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In this photo taken on Friday, March 15, 2019 and provided by the International Red Cross, people carry their personal effects after Tropical Cyclone Idai, in Beira, Mozambique. Mozambique's President Filipe Nyusi says that more than 1,000 may have by killed by Cyclone Idai, which many say is the worst in more than 20 years. (AP)
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TOPSHOT - Timber company workers stand stranded on a damaged road on March 18, 2019, at Charter Estate, Chimanimani, eastern Zimbabwe, after the area was hit by the cyclone Idai. A cyclone that ripped across Mozambique and Zimbabwe has killed at least 162 people with scores more missing. Cyclone Idai tore into the centre of Mozambique on the night of March 14 before barreling on to neighbouring Zimbabwe, bringing flash floods and ferocious winds, and washing away roads and houses. / AFP / Zinyange AUNTONY
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Members of the public and military personnel search for survivors and bodies in Ngangu township Chimanimani, Manicaland Province, eastern Zimbabwe, on March 18 2019, after the area was hit by the cyclone Idai. (AFP)
Updated 19 March 2019
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Over 1,000 feared dead after cyclone slams into Mozambique

  • The Red Cross said 90 percent of Beira was damaged or destroyed

JOHANNESBURG: More than 1,000 people were feared dead in Mozambique four days after a cyclone slammed into the country, submerging entire villages and leaving bodies floating in the floodwaters, the nation’s president said.
“It is a real disaster of great proportions,” President Filipe Nyusi said.
Cyclone Idai could prove to be the deadliest storm in generations to hit the impoverished southeast African country of 30 million people.
It struck Beira, an Indian Ocean port city of a half-million people, late Thursday and then moved inland to Zimbabwe and Malawi with strong winds and heavy rain. But it took days for the scope of the disaster to come into focus in Mozambique, which has a poor communication and transportation network and a corrupt and inefficient bureaucracy.
Speaking on state Radio Mozambique, Nyusi said that while the official death toll stood at 84, “It appears that we can register more than 1,000 deaths.”
Emergency officials cautioned that while they expect the death toll to rise significantly, they have no way of knowing if it will reach the president’s estimate.
More than 215 people were killed by the storm in the three countries, including more than 80 in Zimbabwe’s eastern Chimanimani region, according to official figures. Hundreds more were reported missing and nearly 1,000 homes destroyed in eastern Zimbabwe alone.
UN agencies and the Red Cross helped rush emergency food and medicine by helicopter to the stricken countries.
Mount Chiluvo in central Mozambique was badly hit by flooding. One resident said he heard a loud noise, like an explosion, and suddenly saw a river of mud rolling toward his home.
“I was indoors with my children, but when we looked we saw mud coming down the road toward the houses and we fled,” Francisco Carlitos told Lusa, the Portuguese News Agency. The family lost their home and possessions but safely reached higher ground.
The country’s president, who cut short a visit to neighboring Swaziland over the weekend because of the disaster, spoke after flying by helicopter over Beira and two rural provinces, where he reported widespread devastation.
“The waters of the Pungue and Buzi rivers overflowed, making whole villages disappear and isolating communities, and bodies are floating,” Nyusi said.
The United Nation’s humanitarian office issued flood warnings and said heavy rains were forecast for the next 24 hours, including in areas already hit hard by Idai.
The Red Cross said 90 percent of Beira was damaged or destroyed. The cyclone knocked out electricity, shut down the airport and cut off access to the city by road. UN officials cited reports that Beira Central Hospital’s emergency room was flooded and without power, and that much of the building’s roof had collapsed.
The destruction in Beira is “massive and horrifying,” said Jamie LeSueur, who led a Red Cross team that had to assess the damage by helicopter because of the flooded-out roads.
The UN also warned of devastation outside Beira, in particular of livestock and crops.
“As this damage is occurring just before the main harvest season, it could exacerbate food insecurity in the region,” the UN humanitarian office known as OCHA said.
Mozambique is a long, narrow country with a 2,400-kilometer (1,500-mile) coastline along the Indian Ocean. It is prone to cyclones and tropical storms this time of year.
In 2000, Mozambique was hit by severe flooding caused by weeks of heavy rain, a disaster made much worse when a cyclone hit. Approximately 700 people were killed in what was regarded as the worst flooding in 50 years.
Mozambique won independence from Portugal in 1975 and then was plagued by a long-running civil war that ended in 1992. Its economy is dominated by agriculture, and its exports include prawns, cotton, cashews, sugar, coconuts and tropical hardwood timber.
More recently it has been exporting aluminum and electric power, and deposits of natural gas were discovered in the country’s north.


Unspeakable grief: A husband, wife and three children wiped out in Sri Lanka

Updated 23 April 2019
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Unspeakable grief: A husband, wife and three children wiped out in Sri Lanka

  • The Gomez family gather for funeral of a husband and wife and their three sons
  • They were brutally killed as they attended Easter Sunday Mass at Colombo’s St. Joseph’s Shrine

COLOMBO: The dark wooden coffins, sitting side by side, attested to one family’s unspeakable grief.
The Gomez family gathered Tuesday to say a final farewell to five loved ones — a son, a daughter-in-law and three young grandsons — brutally killed as they attended Easter Sunday Mass at Colombo’s St. Joseph’s Shrine.
“All family, all generation, is lost,” said Joseph Gomez, the family patriarch, as tears welled in his eyes. Dozens of family members and neighbors were gathered in his simple home, where the sound of hymns sung by mourners gently wafted in the background and candles flickered beside three coffins. The bodies of two grandsons have yet to be recovered.
Across Sri Lanka, Tuesday was a national day of mourning as families began to lay to rest the more than 320 victims of the bomb blasts that struck a half-dozen churches and hotels in the island nation.
For the Gomez family, the loss was unfathomable: A 33-year-old son, Berlington Joseph, the young man’s 31-year-old wife Chandrika Arumugam, and their three boys, 9-year-old Bevon, 6-year-old Clavon and baby Avon, who would have turned 1 next week. A funeral card with a photo of the family clutched in his hands, the elder Gomez wailed: “I can’t bear this on me, I can’t bear this.”
“My eldest son, my eldest son,” he sobbed as he laid bouquets of red roses and brightly colored daisies on the largest coffin. Next to it was a tiny coffin, a photo of little Avon tucked into a wooden frame nearby.
The coffins, draped with long white tassels, were then carried to a Colombo cemetery and lowered into side-by-side graves.
At St. Joseph’s Shrine, dozens of mourners gathered outside, lighting candles and praying in unison for the victims of Sunday’s blasts as heavily armed soldiers stood guard.
At St. Sebastian Church in Negombo, a funeral service was held Tuesday for victims killed there as they worshipped, led by Cardinal Malcom Ranjith. The church was heavily guarded by hundreds of army, air force and police troops, and soldiers were deployed every 15 feet along the streets of the city some 20 miles north of Colombo.
Throughout the country, people observed a three-minute silence for the victims of the near-simultaneous attacks at three churches and three luxury hotels, and three other related blasts, the deadliest violence to strike Sri Lanka in a decade.
The Sri Lankan government has blamed the attack on National Towheed Jamaar, a little-known local extremist group, and on Tuesday, the Daesh group also claimed responsibility, though it provided no proof it was involved and has made unsubstantiated claims in the past.