Southern Africa Cyclone Toll Climbs, Hundreds of Thousands in Need of Aid

Some 15,000 people are in need of rescue in Mozambique after Cyclone Idai slammed into southeast Africa last week. Hundreds of thousands more have been affected in Zimbabwe and Malawi, with the death toll across the three countries rising above 350.

"Yesterday we had counted 15,000 people that still need rescue today - 15,000 people who are in bad shape. They are alive, we are communicating with them, delivering food, but we need to rescue them and take them out," Mozambique Land and Environmental Minister Celso Correia told reporters.

Some 3,000 people have been rescued already, according to Correia, as the government has been working with 120 rescue specialists on trying to get to those caught out by the floods.

"Our priority now is to make sure we take food, shelter and medicine to the people who are isolated in...islands and villages," he said, speaking at Beira airport, now the humanitarian relief coordination hub.

"We are working 24 hours to make sure we are taking the food and medicine to those people to make sure we avoid loss of life because of sickness," added the minister.

Zimbabwe affected rises: UN

Mozambique was first hit last week before Cyclone Idai ravaged eastern Zimbabwe, killing at least 139 there.

The World Food Programme initially indicated that some 15,000 Zimbabweans had been affected by the cyclone, but on Thursday upped the number to 200,000 people, according to spokesman Herve Verhoosel.

The cyclone caused massive flooding and landslides in Zimbabwe, causing internal displacement as people fled to higher ground. The International Rescue Committee said it has deployed medical staff and supplies to a mobile clinic in Chimanimani district, an area so affected by the flooding, most of it is only accessible by helicopter.

The weather conditions have hindered rescue efforts, said the IRC, which was on standby with supplies to move in as soon as access is restored.

"We are expecting the situation to worsen and to see a surge in malaria and other water borne diseases," said Paolo Cernuschi, Zimbabwe Country Director at the International Rescue Committee, adding that Zimbabweans had already been experiencing severe food insecurity before the cyclone hit.

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