A cyclone in the eastern African nation of Mozambique may have killed 1,000 people, according to the country’s president.
President Filipe Nyusi said Cyclone Idai caused mass destruction, saying the death toll will likely rise significantly, the BBC reported. The official death toll is 84 in Mozambique, and the storm is blamed for the deaths of about 200 people across southeastern Africa.
The storm, which had the strength of a Category 3 hurricane, packed winds of 106 mph and lashed the region with heavy rains.
Nyusi said he saw bodies floating in the floodwater after touring the hardest-hit area of Beira, a port city, the BBC reported.
“The waters of the Pungue and Buzi rivers overflowed, making whole villages disappear and isolating communities, and bodies are floating,” Nyusi said, according to The Associated Press. “It is a real disaster of great proportions.”
“For the moment we have registered 84 deaths officially, but when we flew over the area … this morning to understand what’s going on, everything indicates that we could register more than 1,000 deaths,” Nyusi said, reported Qatar-backed Al Jazeera TV.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said that about 90 percent of Beira was destroyed in the storm.
The agency added that a dam broke in the area on March 17, cutting off a road to the city, which has about 530,000 residents.
“The scale of damage caused by Cyclone Idai that hit the Mozambican city of Beira is massive and horrifying,” the IFRC said, adding that more rain is expected.
Zimbabwe, located next to the country, was also hit hard by the cyclone. At least 89 people died in the country, AP reported.
A United Nations humanitarian agency stated that some 5.3 million people will require food aid after the storm, Al-Jazeera reported.
Hundreds of people have been injured in the storm, said one local official.
“Almost everything has been affected by the calamity,” Alberto Mondlane, the governor of Sofala Province, told the BBC. “We have people currently suffering, some on top of trees and are badly in need of help.”
Mozambique is a long, narrow country of 30 million people with a 2,400-kilometer (1,500-mile) coastline along the Indian Ocean. It is prone to cyclones and tropical storms this time of year. It was hit by severe flooding in 2000.
Cyclone Idai has caused 'massive and horrifying damage' in Mozambique. More than 150 people have died as a result.
The country won independence from Portugal in 1975 and then was plagued by a long-running civil war. Its economy is dominated by agriculture, and its exports include prawns, cotton, cashews, sugar, coconuts, and tropical hardwood timber. More recently it has been exporting aluminum and electric power.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.