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Mozambique Braces for More Floods as Cyclone Deaths Climb (1)

Members of the Red Cross carry a rescued man from a helicopter to a waiting ambulance outside Chimanimani, about 500 kilometers east of the capital Harare, Zimbabwe, 19 March 2019. Rescue efforts have begun after the devastating Cyclone Idai. According to reports around 100 people have died, more than 100 are still missing and thousands are displaced as a result of the disaster. Neighbouring Mozambique and Malawi have also been affected by the cyclone. EPA-EFE/AARON UFUMELI

Heavy rain fell over western Mozambique and neighboring Zimbabwe and is forecast to continue until the end of the week. Mozambique’s cabinet announced the increased death toll, which stood at 182 earlier in the day.

Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi said the number could exceed 1,000 in his country. In Zimbabwe at least 98 have died, and that could reach 300, according to its government.

Mozambique declared a national emergency and three days mourning, the cabinet said. An area of 394 square kilometers was flooded in the country, according to European Union satellite imagery.

“We’re seeing large areas from the air that are flooded more than two to three meters high,” Caroline Haga, spokeswoman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said by phone from the port city of Beira. “It’s a massive catastrophe. The government is saying it’s the worst humanitarian situation they’ve had.”

The storm disrupted electricity exports from Mozambique’s Cahora Bassa hydropower dam to South Africa, and curbed fuel supplies to Zimbabwe from a pipeline that originates in Beira, which bore the brunt of the cyclone when it made landfall on March 15.

The disaster will compound pressure on Mozambique’s budget at a time when the nation is already in default on about $2 billion of external commercial debt and as it prepares for national elections in October, according to

Celeste Fauconnier, an Africa economist at Rand Merchant Bank Ltd. in Johannesburg.

While it’s too early to estimate the scale of the devastation, the storm will be “very economically damaging,” said

John Ashbourne, an Africa economist at London-based Capital Economics.

Mozambique’s worst-recorded flooding occurred in 2000, when Cyclone Leon-Eline struck, killing about 800 people. The country is the third-most vulnerable on the continent to climate change, according to the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery.

Rapid Strengthening

Before forming a tropical cyclone on March 9, the system dumped heavy rains over Mozambique and neighboring Malawi earlier this month, displacing more than 100,000 people and causing more than 60 deaths. The storm then moved back out to the southern Indian Ocean, where warm waters caused it to rapidly strengthen as it once again took aim at Mozambique’s coast.

The first incarnation of the storm last week resulted in a temporary halt to coal exports from

Vale SA’s Moatize operation, Mozambique’s biggest producer, after railway lines were submerged. Operations have since resumed, the company said by email.

In Zimbabwe, Idai swept across the east of the country, destroying roads and bridges in a region that’s recently experienced drought. President

Emmerson Mnangagwa said the country is drawing from “strategic reserves” to send food to affected communities. DM

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