Death toll from Mozambique, Zimbabwe floods exceeds 300 as UN boosts aid

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Soldiers and paramedics carry injured survivors from a helicopter in Chimanimani about 600 kilometres south east of Harare, Zimbabwe, Tuesday March, 19, 2019. (AP)
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People wait in a queue to receive food supplies from soldiers in Chimanimani, about 600 kilometers southeast of Harare, Zimbabwe, Monday, March 18, 2019. (AP)
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A wounded survivor is evacuated by helicopter from Chimanimani on March 19, 2019 to an hospital in Mutare, after the area was hit by the Cyclone Idai. (AFP)
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This photo issued Tuesday March 19, 2019, taken within last week and supplied by World Food Programme, flood waters cover large tracts of land in Nicoadala, Zambezia Province of Mozambique. (AP)
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School students of St. Charles Luanga, rescued by members of the Zimbabwe Military, walk past a mudslide on March 17, 2019, covering a major road at Skyline junction in Chimanimani, Manicaland Province, Zimbabwe, after tropical cyclone Idai barrelled across the southern African nations with flash floods and ferocious winds. (AFP)
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Soldiers and paramedics rush to a helicopter to carry injured survivors in Chimanimani about 600 kilometres south east of Harare, Zimbabwe, Tuesday, March, 19, 2019. (AP)
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A man cleans up a destroyed house on March 19, 2019 in Chimanimani, as a hundred houses were damaged by the Cyclone Idai. (AFP)
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A picture taken on March 18, 2019, shows a man taking pictures of a large crack in the ground as a Zimbabwean soldier helps guide pedestrians across a bridge on the Risitu River during search and rescue operations in the wake of devastating floods and mudslides caused when Cyclone Idai struck Zimbabwe in Chimanimani, Manicaland Province. (AFP)
Updated 20 March 2019
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Death toll from Mozambique, Zimbabwe floods exceeds 300 as UN boosts aid

  • Worst hit was Chimanimani in Manicaland, an eastern province which borders Mozambique

BEIRA, Mozambique: The death toll from a cyclone that smashed into Mozambique and Zimbabwe rose to more than 300 on Tuesday as rescuers raced against the clock to help survivors and the UN led the charge to provide aid.
“We already have more than 200 dead, and nearly 350,000 people are at risk,” Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi announced, while the government in Zimbabwe said around 100 people had died but the toll could be triple that figure.
The UN, meanwhile, said that one of the worst storms to hit southern Africa in decades had also unleashed a humanitarian crisis in Malawi, affecting nearly a million people and forcing more than 80,000 from their homes.
Four days after Tropical Cyclone Idai made landfall, emergency teams in central Mozambique fanned out in boats and helicopters, seeking to pluck survivors from roofs and treetops in an inland sea of floodwater, sometimes in the dead of night.
Air force personnel from Mozambique and South Africa were drafted in to fly rescue missions, while an NGO called Rescue South Africa said it had picked up 34 people since Friday night, using three helicopters.
“It is the only way to access the people that are stranded,” Rescue SA’s Abrie Senekal told AFP, saying the NGO was trying to hire more helicopters.

Ian Scher, who heads Rescue SA, said the helicopter teams were having to make difficult decisions.
“Sometimes we can only save two out of five, sometimes we drop food and go to someone else who’s in bigger danger,” he said.
“We just save what we can save and the others will perish.”
In Nhamatanda, some 60 kilometers (40 miles) northwest of Beira, 27-year-old Jose Batio and his wife and children survived by climbing onto a roof.
But a lot of their neighbors “were swept by the water,” he said.
“Water came like a tsunami and destroyed most things. We were prisoners on the roof,” he told AFP after they were rescued by boat.
The city of Beira, Mozambique’s second largest city and a major port, was immediately cut off after the storm. According to the Red Cross, the cyclone damaged or destroyed 90 percent of the city of half a million people.
President Nyusi, speaking on Tuesday after attending a cabinet meeting in the ravaged city, said the confirmed death toll stood at 202 and nearly 350,000 were “at risk.”
The government declared a national emergency and ordered three days of national mourning, he said.
“We are in an extremely difficult situation,” Nyusi said, warning of high tides and waves of around eight meters (26 feet) in the coming days.
On Monday, Nyusi had said he feared more than 1,000 had died and more than 100,000 people were in danger.

The storm also lashed eastern Zimbabwe, leaving around 100 dead, a toll that could be as much as 300, local government minister July Moyo said after a cabinet briefing.
“I understand there are bodies which are floating, some have floated all the way to Mozambique,” he said.
“The total number, we were told they could be 100, some are saying there could be 300. But we cannot confirm this situation,” he said.
At least 217 others are missing and 44 stranded, officials said.
Worst hit was Chimanimani in Manicaland, an eastern province which borders Mozambique.
Families started burying their dead in damp graves on Monday, as injured survivors filled up the hospitals, an AFP correspondent said.
Military helicopters were airlifting people to Mutare, the largest city near Chimanimani.
The storm swept away homes and bridges, devastating huge areas in what Defense Minister Perrance Shiri said “resembles the aftermath of a full-scale war.”
Some roads were swallowed by massive sinkholes, while bridges were ripped to pieces by flash floods.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said it was mobilizing aid for some 600,000 people, saying the world did not yet appreciate the scale of the “massive disaster.”
So far, it has dispatched more than five tons of emergency provisions to the affected areas.
“WFP aims to support 500,000 to 600,000 people in the coming weeks,” spokesman Herve Verhoosel told reporters in Geneva.
“I don’t think that the world (has) realized yet the scale of the problem,” he said.
In Malawi, 920,000 people have been affected by the cyclone and 82,000 people have been displaced, the UN said.
“OCHA (the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) has deployed resources to support assessments and information management, and UNICEF is deploying additional supplies to affected areas including tents, water and sanitation supplies and learning materials to affected children,” it said.


Release of long-awaited Mueller report on Russia a watershed moment for Trump

Updated 18 April 2019
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Release of long-awaited Mueller report on Russia a watershed moment for Trump

  • Attorney General William Barr would hold a news conference Thursday morning to discuss the report
  • Copies of the report will be delivered to Capitol Hill more than an hour later

WASHINGTON: Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s long-awaited report on Russia’s role in the 2016 US election will be released on Thursday, providing the first public look at the findings of an inquiry that has cast a shadow over Donald Trump’s presidency.
Attorney General William Barr’s planned release of the nearly 400-page report comes after Mueller wrapped up his 22-month investigation last month into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia and questions about obstruction of justice by the president.
Its disclosure, with portions expected to be blacked out by Barr to protect some sensitive information, is certain to launch a new political fight spilling into the halls of Congress and the 2020 presidential campaign trail, as Trump seeks re-election in a deeply divided country.
The release marks a watershed moment in Trump’s presidency, promising new details about some of the biggest questions in the probe, including the extent and nature of his campaign’s contacts with Russia and actions Trump may have taken to hinder the inquiry including his 2017 firing of FBI Director James Comey.
It also may deepen an already bitter partisan rift between Trump’s fellow Republicans, most of whom have rallied around the president, and his Democratic critics, who will have to decide how hard to go after Trump as they prepare congressional investigations of his administration.
Barr said he would hold a news conference at 9:30 a.m. (1330 GMT) on Thursday to discuss the report, along with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller as special counsel in May 2017.
Copies of the report will be delivered to Capitol Hill more than an hour later, between 11 a.m. and noon (1500-1600 GMT), a senior Justice Department official said. The delay in seeing the report sparked Democratic complaints that Barr, a Trump appointee, wanted to shape the public’s views during his news conference before others had a chance to draw their own conclusions.
Early on Thursday, top congressional Democrats called on Mueller to testify publicly about his investigation, criticizing Barr’s rollout of the report.
“We believe the only way to begin restoring public trust in the handling of the Special Counsel’s investigation is for Special Counsel Mueller himself to provide public testimony in the House and Senate as soon as possible,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.
Mueller’s investigation, which Trump has called a “witch hunt,” raised questions about the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency and laid bare what the special counsel and US intelligence agencies have described as a Russian operation to derail Democrat Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and elevate Trump, the Kremlin’s preferred candidate.
Some Democrats have spoken of launching impeachment proceedings against Trump in Congress, allowed under the US Constitution to remove a president from office for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” but top Democrats have been notably cautious.
Mueller charged 34 people and three Russian companies. Those who were convicted or pleaded guilty included figures close to Trump such as his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, personal lawyer Michael Cohen and national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Mueller submitted the report to Barr on March 22. Two days later, Barr sent lawmakers a four-page letter saying the inquiry did not establish that Trump’s 2016 campaign team engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Russia and that Mueller had not exonerated Trump of committing the crime of obstruction of justice. Barr subsequently concluded that Trump had not committed obstruction of justice.
Since Barr released that letter, Trump has claimed “complete and total exoneration,” and condemned the inquiry as “an illegal takedown that failed.” At a March 28 rally in Michigan, Trump said that “after three years of lies and smears and slander, the Russia hoax is finally dead.”
Citing people with knowledge of the discussions, the New York Times reported on Wednesday that White House lawyers held talks with US Justice Department officials in recent days about the conclusions in Mueller’s report, aiding them in preparing for its release.
Justice Department regulations gave Barr broad authority to decide how much of Mueller’s report to make public, but Democrats have demanded the entire report as well as the underlying investigative files. Barr is due to testify to Congress in public about the report in early May.
The Justice Department has been working for weeks to prepare the redactions, which will be color coded to reflect the reason material is omitted.
Barr said he would redact parts to protect secret grand jury information, intelligence-gathering sources and methods, material that could affect ongoing investigations and information that unduly infringes on the privacy of “peripheral third parties” who were not charged.
Democrats are concerned that Barr, appointed by Trump after the president fired former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, could black out material to protect the president.
The release comes as both parties gear up for the November 2020 presidential election. Trump already has launched his campaign for a second four-year term, and a crowded field of Democrats has formed to seek the nomination to challenge him.