The death toll from Cyclone Idai- induced floods has risen to 70 with 65 deaths having been confirmed in Manicaland, four in Masvingo and one in Mashonaland East.
Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Cde July Moyo confirmed the death of the 65 people in Manicaland in an interview with The Herald during a tour of the affected area in the province yesterday.
The deaths in Masvingo and Mash East were confirmed by Bikita District Administrator and chairman of the district's Civil Protection Unit, Mr Bernard Hadzirabwi, and Mashonaland East Acting Provincial Administrator Mr Clemence Malawi repectively.
Cde Moyo said the bodies of the 65 died due to drowning and injuries sustained during mudslides.
Minister Moyo is leading a ministerial delegation comprising Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Minister and Acting Defence Minister Perrance Shiri, Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Dr Sekai Nzenza and Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Joel Biggie Matiza that is assessing the damage caused by Cyclone Idai in Manicaland, particularly Chimanimani, which was the worst affected.
Secretary for Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Mr Nick Mangwana has also been visiting the stricken areas in Chimanimani since Friday.
"We came here to get a briefing from the Provincial Civil Protection Unit and the committee led by the provincial administrator. We want to see the extent of the damage on the ground. Bridges and roads suffered the most damage. These are the challenges we facing as Government. So far I can confirm that 65 people have been retrieved dead while hundreds others are still missing," he said.
Minister Moyo said the priority was now to open routes to the epicentre of the disaster.
"I'm happy the Minister of Transport is with us. For now the priority is to open up the routes to areas where people have been marooned. Secondly, we want to ensure that the dead get decent burials.
He said the Zimbabwe Defence Forces were in full force trying to open access routes.
"The ZDF, as you can see, is out in full force trying to open ways to reach the affected people while we also telling the nation that the situation is more serious than we thought when we were in Harare," he said.
He said Government will continue to monitor the situation and the intervention is centred on ensuring that the affected and the bereaved get the necessary help.
He added that while the damage was extensive in Chimanimani other areas like Chipinge were also affected.
Minister Moyo said Government had set up a command centre in Harare to monitor the situation.
He said the Zimbabwe Republic Police was taking care of the retrieved bodies.
Mobilisation of resources has gone international and there is positive response.
"The mobilisation of resources is receiving a positive response. So far we have obtained $10 000 and 10 000 litres of diesel from well-wishers towards this disaster," he said.
Minister Moyo added that Government will provide $1 000 for each of the bereaved families and transport to destinations of burial.
The ministerial delegation was forced to abandon their mission to reach Chimanimani after failing to get past a bus that was stuck near Tanganda Tea Company's New Year's Gift Estate.
Minister Moyo said efforts to reach Chimanimani would be intensified.
"We will continue with efforts to reach Chimanimani. Our army engineers as well as their counterparts form the Ministry of Transport are with us to help clear the way. We want to ensure that we reach the ground and render all the necessary assistance," he said.
Minister Matiza said they were mobilising equipment to ensure that communication channels in some of the areas was opened.
"We are also engaging private partners for them to come on board and assist with fuel and equipment. Intervention measures are being put in place while we carry out an assessment of the damage. What we want first is to ensure that the affected parts of Chimanimani are accessible.
"Assessment of the damaged infrastructure is important because we are still recording cases of bridges succumbing to the pressure of the water which has weakened them. We will have our departments assess that and come up with the costs," said Minister Matiza.
Minister Nzenza said the destruction of bridges had resulted in them facing challenges in delivering basic foodstuffs to the affected families.
"It is risky to access most of the areas because of the mudslides and people need food and clean water. Most of the people who died were affected by mudslides and the ferocious water. Some of them were trapped by falling stones and trees and our challenge is to give them a decent burial," she said.
Minister Nzenza added: "In terms of food assistance, I am liaising with the Department of Social Welfare officers in Chimanimani as well as the local legislator, Cde (Joshua) Sacco, to provide grain, beans and rice. Already we have bales of clothes that are coming. We have to find ways to get these goods to the other side."
Mr Mangwana said infrastructure, like roads, that was giving, showed how difficult the rescue mission was.
"You have to go through such hurdles to get through where we are going. We are now going to Chimanimani using a winding road. On our way, we have encountered this unfortunate incident where the tarmac has given in after soaking in so much water."
He said resources to assist the affected families were available, but the challenge was on how to take them to the affected areas.
Meanwhile, Mr Hadzirabwi said the four people who died in Masvingo were from Bikita where two girls aged sic and 12 died in the Mukore area on Friday night after a house they were sleeping in gave way to heavy rains and collapsed on them.
The other two -- a female and a male adult -- also died in the Hozvi area in Mukanganwi communal lands on Friday night after they were trapped in the rubble of their houses which caved in owing to heavy rains accompanied by winds.
Over 150 houses have been destroyed in Masving, particularly in the eastern part of the province where heavy rains and strong winds have been ravaging infrastructure since last Friday when Cyclone Idai swept into Masvingo.
In Zaka some areas such as Chipinda, Muroyi and Chimedza were rendered inaccessible by road after heavy rains forced Chiredzi River to burst its banks.
In Mashonaland East the victim was an 83-year-old man who was swept away by floods and his body was recovered the following morning.
Mr Masawi said at least 20 houses in Ward 17 Masasa in Chikomba collapsed due to the excessive rains.