HARARE ‑ The death toll has risen to 89 in Zimbabwe after Cyclone Idai ravaged the country’s Manicaland, Mashonaland East and Masvingo provinces since Friday.
Leader of the inter-ministerial taskforce team, July Moyo, confirmed the number of the dead and said hundreds were still missing in Chipinge and Chimanamani districts of Manicaland.
Cyclone Idai formed over the Mozambique Channel before moving inland via Beira on Thursday last week.
The inter-ministerial task force says the cyclone has led to massive destruction of infrastructure, including homes, clinics, schools, roads and bridges.
Government, corporates and individuals have come together to mobilise aid for the victims who need food, clothes, blankets, toiletries and water, among other things.
Although the amount of aid so far could not be ascertained, a United Nations (UN) team working with other aid partners in Zimbabwe is helping the government to support about 10,000 people affected by the tropical cyclone.
Corporates such as Econet Wireless have also mobilised supposed for the affected citizens.
Econet Wireless spokesperson Lovemore Nyatsine said that all their shops were drop-in zones for donations.
“We have set up a 24/7 crack team to help with an Econet Group response as we deploy all our capabilities towards this effort,” he said.
Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights executive director Calvin Fambirai said with the emerging health and medical challenges, they would be deploying doctors to the affected communities.
He said most donations needed were fuel, food (dried or tinned) beans, water, mealie meal, portable gas stoves, blankets, warm clothing, IV fluids, chronic and other essential medicines, water, cooking utensils, tents and stretcher beds as well as vehicles.
The level of destruction is only beginning to be assessed in full as the affected areas had been rendered inaccessible due to road damages.
“Zimbabwe National Army engineers have managed to create a detour along the Mutare-Chipinge highway to enable aid to pass and get to the victims,” the information, publicity and broadcasting services ministry said.
The government has declared a state of disaster in areas affected by the cyclone, the worst to hit the country since Cyclone Eline devastated eastern and southern Zimbabwe in 2000.
Moyo said the government would cushion the bereaved by assisting with “transport, coffins and food”.
Chipinge Department of Civil Protection has also dispatched five teams to various areas in Chimanimani district with some preliminary food aid.
Spokesperson for the UN secretary-general Stephane Dujarric said in a statement that the organisation was ready to work with Zimbabwean authorities in response to the humanitarian disaster.
“The UN expresses its solidarity with the Zimbabwe authorities and stands ready to work with them as they respond to the humanitarian needs resulting from this disaster,” the world body statement said.
Opposition MDC leader Nelson Chamisa visited affected areas and families on Monday to assess the situation.
He said they were greeted by heart-rending stories of decomposing bodies, as either relatives did not know the whereabouts of their kin or were marooned and could not cross to collect their bodies.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa returned home from the United Arab Emirates on Monday morning “to make sure he is involved directly with the national response by way of relief to victims of Cyclone Idai”, the information ministry said.