Aid agencies struggle to rescue Mozambique cyclone victims

1 / 2
Mozambicans stands in a queue to receive food from the World Food Programme in Nhamatanda, about 100 kilometers west of Beira, on March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
2 / 2
In this photo supplied by the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre survivors of Cyclone Idai arrive by rescue boat in Beira, Mozambique, on March 21, 2019. (Denis Onyodi - Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre via AP)
Updated 22 March 2019

Aid agencies struggle to rescue Mozambique cyclone victims

  • Tropical Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi last week
  • The confirmed death toll stood at more than 300 and hundreds of thousands of lives were at risk

BEIRA, Mozambique: Aid workers raced on Wednesday to help survivors and meet spiralling humanitarian needs in three southern African countries battered by the region’s worst storm in years.
Five days after tropical cyclone Idai cut a swathe through Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, the confirmed death toll stood at more than 300 and hundreds of thousands of lives were at risk, officials said.
Mozambique, where the monster storm made landfall early last Friday, is reeling.
“We’ve thousands of people ... in roofs and trees waiting for rescue,” Caroline Haga, spokeswoman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said.
“We are running out of time. People have been waiting for rescue for more than three days now,” she told AFP in the storm-ravaged coastal city of Beira.
She added: “Unfortunately, we can’t pick up all the people, so our priority are children, pregnant women, injured people.”
Survivor Aunicia Jose, 24, speaking in the district of Buzi near Beira, said, “The situation is very bad, we haven’t eaten since Thursday, until today.
“We are sleeping outside, everything is destroyed, our houses are destroyed, everything is gone, we have recovered nothing.”
World Food Programme (WFP) spokeswoman Deborah Nguyen told AFP in Beira that “the priority today is to rush to rescue people trapped in the flooded areas” as much as organizing temporary shelter for those rescued.
“The situation has not really improved. In Buzi, the villages are still under water but the good news is that there are many rescue teams working all day long.
“Relief operations are progressing, but there is still a lot of work.”
The UN said it was “one of the worst natural disasters in southern Africa,” and launched an international appeal for relief funds, having earlier said it was aiming to help some 600,000 people in coming weeks.
“We do not yet know enough about the level of destruction to give an accurate estimate of the amount of this call for funds, but it will be important,” spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters at UN headquarters in New York.
Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi said on Tuesday that 202 people had died, according to the latest toll, and nearly 350,000 people were at risk.
In Zimbabwe, the death toll stood at 100 on Wednesday but was expected to surge to 300, while up to 15,000 people are estimated to have been hit by the storm.
In Malawi, nearly a million people have been affected and more than 80,000 forced from their homes, according to the UN.
Aid agencies said they were prepared for the cyclone which made landfall early Friday, but not for the massive floods that followed.
Mozambique bore the brunt from rivers that flow downstream from its neighbors.
Beira airport which was partially damaged by the storm and temporarily shut, had re-opened to become the relief operations hub but is proving not large enough.
Air force personnel from Mozambique and South Africa have been drafted in to fly rescue missions and distribute aid which can only be airlifted as roads out of Beira have been destroyed.


A government worker who asked not be identified spoke from a roadside after he was rescued by boat in Nhamatanda, some 60 kilometers (40 miles) northwest of Beira, saying “this is the first time our generation has seen something like this.”
Climate expert John Mutter, a professor at the Earth Institute at New York’s Columbia University, said the heavy toll was partly explained by the infrequency of such weather events in southern Africa.
“Mozambique and Zimbabwe are essentially unprepared. They both have weak governance that, honestly, focuses on many more pressing things (as they would see it). And because cyclones are so rare in this part of the world, so preparedness is minimal,” Mutter told AFP.
In Zimbabwe, at least 217 people are listed as missing in Chimanimani in Manicaland, an eastern province which borders Mozambique.
The district remains cut off after roads were swallowed by massive sinkholes and bridges were ripped to pieces by flash floods — a landscape that Defense Minister Perrance Shiri said “resembles the aftermath of a full-scale war.”
Families were using hoes to dig through mounds of soil in search of their missing relatives, an AFP correspondent saw.
After visiting some of the victims in Chimanimani, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said “a tragedy has visited us.”
“The last place we visited, where three main rivers merge, an entire village was washed away. I think those are the bodies which are now being found in Mozambique,” he said.
The three countries are some of the poorest in the region and depend heavily on foreign aid.
In Rome, Pope Francis expressed “my pain and my closeness” for those caught up in the disaster.
“I entrust the many victims and their families to the mercy of God and I implore comfort and support for those affected by this calamity,” he said, addressing thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square.


Patten says China pursuing ‘Orwellian’ agenda in Hong Kong

Updated 05 June 2020

Patten says China pursuing ‘Orwellian’ agenda in Hong Kong

  • Chris Patten defended London’s announcement that it would grant residency and a path to citizenship for nearly 3 million Hong Kong residents
  • China shocked many of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million people when it announced earlier this month that it will enact a national security law for the city

BEIJING: The last British governor of Hong Kong criticized the Chinese government on Friday over proposed national security legislation, calling it part of an “Orwellian” drive to eliminate opposition in violation of the agreement on handing the territory over to Beijing.
Chris Patten defended London’s announcement that it would grant residency and a path to citizenship for nearly 3 million Hong Kong residents if Beijing goes through with passage of the legislation.
The law is seen as potentially imposing severe restrictions on freedom of speech and opposition political activity in the former British colony that was handed over to Chinese rule in 1997. China has denounced the offer of citizenship as a violation of its sovereignty.
“If they’ve broken the (Sino-British) Joint Declaration, if they’ve thrown it overboard, how can they then use the joint declaration as though it stops us doing something that’s a sovereign right of ours?” said Patten, now chancellor of the University of Oxford, in an online talk with reporters.
The declaration is a bilateral treaty signed as part of the handover process. China has essentially declared it null and void, while Britain says Beijing is reneging on its commitments made in the document that was supposed to be remain in effect until 2047.
China shocked many of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million people when it announced earlier this month that it will enact a national security law for the city, which was promised a high level of autonomy outside of foreign and defense affairs.
An earlier push to pass security legislation was shelved after massive Hong Kong street protests against it in 2003. However, Beijing appeared to lose patience after months of sometimes violent anti-government protests in Hong Kong last year that China said was an attempt to split the territory off from the rest of the country.
Patten said the security legislation is unnecessary because Hong Kong’s legal code already includes provisions to combat terrorism, financial crimes and other threats to security.
“What Beijing wants is something which deals with those rather worrying Orwellian crimes like sedition, whatever that may be,” Patten said.
China may also be seeking grounds to disqualify opposition candidates from running in September’s election for the local legislature by accusing them of being disloyal, he said.
Beijing has ignored promises that Hong Kong could democratize of its own accord after the handover, Patten said. The US should unite with other democratic countries to oppose underhanded tactics by Beijing, he said.
“It’s the Chinese Communist Party which attacks us, which hectors, which bullies, which tells companies which have roots in our countries, that unless they do what China wants, they won’t get any business in China,” Patten said. “That’s the way the Mafia behave, and the rest of the world shouldn’t put up with it, because if we do, liberal democracies are going to be screwed.”