Maputo: Rescue teams in Mozambique are struggling to reach the thousands of people stranded on roofs and in trees and urgently need more helicopters and boats as post-cyclone flood waters continue to rise.
Mozambique, which was hit by Cyclone Idai over the weekend, has declared a state of emergency and is appealing for international help.
Rescue workers, military personnel and volunteers are rushing to save thousands of Mozambicans before flood levels rise further, but with four helicopters, a handful of boats and extremely difficult conditions, have only been able to save about 413 so far.
“I don’t even know if we’ve made a dent. There are just so many people. The scale is huge. We’re busy doing the best we can,” said Travis Trower from Rescue South Africa, adding that a lot of people had been washed away but those still alive, whom he had seen from helicopter flights, were in a very bad state.
“We’re often a couple of metres off the ground, so we’re really close to them. We see they’re frail, they’re tired, they’re hungry. There’s no water, no food, they’re in the cold at night. It’s devastating.”
More than 400 sq kilometres (150 sq miles) in the region are flooded, according to satellite images taken by the EU, and in some places the water is six metres (19ft) deep. At least 600,000 people are affected, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), ranging from those whose lives are in immediate danger to those who need other kinds of aid.
With heavy rains still falling in the region, floodwaters are predicted to rise in the coming days, meaning more people will need to be rescued; Mozambique’s president, Filipe Nyusi, warned there could be waves up to eight metres high.
Emergency teams are shifting their focus from rescue to delivering aid and evacuating Buzi, a town of 200,000 people that is expected to be partially submerged in the coming surge. Aerial images released by Mozambique’s disaster relief agency, the INGC, showed survivors packed together on top of high buildings in Buzi district, which is the worst affected area.