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Death toll in Mozambique could surpass 1 000, massive destruction reported

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The President of Mozambique said Monday, March 18, 2019, that the number of people killed by Tropical Cyclone "Idai" could exceed 1 000. Idai made landfall at 23:30 UTC on March 14 close to the city of Beira (population 534 000) with wind speeds up to 170 km/h (104 mph) and central pressure of 960 hPa. 

While the number of confirmed deaths in Mozambique is 84 as of March 18, authorities say it could surpass 1 000 as search and rescue operations continue. 

Speaking on Radio Mocambique, President Filipe Nyusi said he had flown over the affected region, where two rivers had overflowed. "Villages had disappeared and bodies were floating in the water. Everything indicates that we can register more than one thousand deaths," he said.

Most of the deaths were reported in the coastal city of Beira (population 534 000) which is 90% destroyed, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

IFRC said a large dam burst in the city on Sunday, March 17, cutting off the last road to the city. "The scale of damage caused by Cyclone 'Idai' that hit the Mozambican city of Beira is massive and horrifying." 

"The damage is extensive even 300 km (186 miles) from the cyclone's landing area where we are. Hundreds of houses are destroyed in this district alone. People are sheltering in schools or with neighbors," said Al Jazeera's Malcolm Webb, reporting from central Mozambique.

Neighboring Zimbabwe was also badly hit, particularly its eastern and southern regions where heavy rain and winds swept away roads, homes and bridges and knocked out power and communication lines.

Zimbabwe's Chimanimani district was cut off from the rest of the country and rescuers were struggling to reach it.

At least 89 people were killed there and more than 100 are missing, but the death toll is expected to rise. Some reports received today mention at least 150 killed.

At least 56 people were killed in Malawi before Idai made landfall and about 1.5 million people in total have been affected by the cyclone. 

The full scale of the destruction is unknown at this time.

Featured image credit: AP

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