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Scale of destruction from Cyclone Idai remains unclear as deaths toll tops 600

Kate Bartlett and Lynsey Chutel, DPA on

Published in Weather News

BERIA, Mozambique -- The number of dead from Cyclone Idai in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi rose to at least 615, the United Nations said Saturday, citing official figures from the national governments.

The death toll in Mozambique reached 417, Environment Minister Celso Correia said, while the number of dead in Zimbabwe was 139. In Malawi, 59 deaths were reported according to a spokesman for the U.N. emergency aid agency OCHA in Geneva.

Rain continued in Mozambique's port city of Beira, which was nearly submerged by flooding when Idai hit.

Rescue workers used boats to reach stranded residents, and more than 30 people were treated by the Indian Navy. With food running out in the city, survivors were fed biscuits, soup and water.

Dozens of residents lined up to withdraw money from the few working ATMs.

The city with a population of about 500,000 was devastated by the storm. The cyclone left a 78-mile-wide lake in Beira and surrounding towns and villages.

"Forty eight hours after the cyclone, bad weather made it even harder for rescue operations," Correia said. "However, we managed to assess the impact using drones and aerial transport."

Cyclone Idai is "an unprecedented natural disaster and the impact is tremendous," Correia said.

Fearing a cholera outbreak, Correia said his ministry is working with counterparts in the health ministry to put measures in place to prevent further disaster.

 

Across the region, about 600,000 people were displaced, according to various U.N. agencies.

"The situation will get worse before it gets better," UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore said in a statement after visiting Beira. Aid agencies are barely beginning to see the scale of the damage. Entire villages have been submerged, buildings have been flattened, and schools and health care centers have been destroyed."

She warned of the risk that water-borne diseases "can turn this disaster into a major catastrophe."

The confirmed number of dead is expected to rise as more information comes in from the areas hit worst by the cyclone and by flooding.

A Zimbabwe army official told dpa on Friday that 145 bodies had been recovered

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