MORE than 500 people are still missing in Rusitu Valley in Chimanimani District as rescue efforts are being hampered by damaged roads, 3 Infantry Brigade commander Major-General Joe Muzvidziwa, who is leading the army rescue mission, has said.
Efforts to rescue victims of Cyclone Idai are still underway, with the military yesterday being assisted by a privately-owned helicopter that was ferrying the critically injured from some of the affected areas to Mutambara Hospital and Skyline Help Centre.
Helicopters could not fly into the area since Sunday owing to bad weather.
In an interview at Skyline Junction in Chimanimani, Maj-Gen Muzvidziwa said there was insufficient data on the number of missing persons and those who have died, especially in Rusitu Valley where loss of human life and damage to infrastructure was extensive.
"We still need more nurses because those at Ngangu Clinic in Chimanimani Township are overwhelmed.
"At least doctors have arrived and they are already working. We are still getting reports of areas that need assistance and we have made several flights into some of the affected areas," he said.
"We do not have sufficient data on the numbers of people who died and those that are missing. In fact, when the data collation is done, we are expecting the number of missing people to be less not than 500.
"The good thing is that the water levels have receded and if we manage to clear the roads, we could have a clear picture by end of day tomorrow."
Relief efforts to ease the plight of people affected by Cyclone Idai in Chimanimani have taken days to reach the epicentre of the disaster owing to impassable roads.
Said Manicaland provincial administrator Mr Edgar Seenza: "We are still trying to reach the affected areas and relief teams are on the ground trying to find alternative routes to reach out to the affected communities."
Roads were damaged while bridges were washed away after Cyclone Idai left a trail of destruction in Chimanimani and Chipinge districts.
As of yesterday, motorists could only travel as far as Skyline junction from Jopa turn-off near Chipinge, but could neither proceed to Chimanimani Town nor the opposite Biriiri-Mutare Road.
One of the survivors, Mr Godfrey Munyakare, was grateful that the rescue mission had finally reached the Skyline area.
"We went through a torrid time last Friday night. The landslide razed down my homestead. I was left with nothing, but I thank God that my family of three and my wife survived this ordeal. We had to spend the whole night making detours so that the mudslide would not affect the kitchen hut where we had placed the children.
"We lost two neighbours and we have since given them decent burials with the assistance of the army. These are the worst floods to hit our area," he said.