This blog was updated on 26 March 2019.
No food, no power, no clean water and no way in or out.
This is life in Beira, Mozambique, a few days after Cyclone Idai tore through this city of half a million people.
So far, we know that 417 people have died in Mozambique and this is expected to rise significantly. Over 1,000 have been injured. In the three countries, the death toll is expected to go up.
Latest figures say that 18,000 people have had to flee their homes. Over 6,000 houses and 18 hospitals have been destroyed. Overall, a staggering 1,850,000 people have been affected in Mozambique alone.
After hitting Beira on the coast, the cyclone moved inland and its torrential rains over neighbouring Zimbabwe and Malawi caused several rivers to overflow.
A dam on the outskirts of Beira also burst, leaving people stranded and cutting off the last road access to the city.
Numbers expected to go up
The resulting floods in Mozambique have washed out 11 bridges and 1,583 kilometres of roads have been damaged. That’s longer than the distance from London to Berlin. Many places are now completely cut off from the mainland.
“But these are just the first reports,” Alexander Pendry, regional manager for southern Africa at the British Red Cross, said.
“Because it is so hard to reach people affected, we don’t yet know how many people have been killed or are homeless. Numbers are expected to rise dramatically.
“Roughly 3,000 square kilometres have been flooded. In UK terms, this is equivalent to the whole of Lancashire being under water.”
“The government now estimates that floods have affected 600,000 people, around the number of people who live in Manchester.”
Mozambique Red Cross helped even before the cyclone hit
The Mozambique Red Cross was already working in the area before the cyclone hit and volunteers warned communities to take cover.
As soon as the storm finished, they began giving out chlorine so people can purify their water. In emergencies like this one, it’s common for clean water sources to be contaminated by dirty flood water.
With roads still cut off, the Red Cross is using supplies already stored in Mozambique to help people. These include shelter kits, tarpaulins, blankets, sleeping mats and buckets for clean water.
Thousands of people who lost their homes have now been brought by boat and truck to accommodation centres in Beira.
Over 120 Mozambique Red Cross volunteers are supporting them there and medical students have joined them to provide essential health care.
“Malaria is always a problem there, so they are handing out mosquito nets as well. Supplies for at least 3,000 families are on now their way by ship from a Red Cross warehouse,” Alexander said.
“The dedication of Mozambique Red Cross volunteers and staff is inspiring. Not only was the Red Cross office in Beira left in ruins by the cyclone, many of our teams there probably lost their own homes as well. “
Search and rescue in Malawi
In Malawi, which has been flooded by days of heavy rain from Idai, 56 people are known to have died. Around 94,000 have had to flee their homes.
With people trapped in damaged buildings, under debris or even by uprooted trees, the Red Cross is carrying out search and rescue operations.
For those who made it to safety, the Red Cross is distributing essentials such as materials to build shelters, soap and buckets for clean water. We have also sent 4,000 mosquito nets and 4,400 tarpaulins to Malawi.
Blankets and mosquito nets for Zimbabwe
Across the border in Zimbabwe, we know that at least 104 people have died. Around 2,500 people have had to leave their homes and the British Red Cross keeps a warehouse full of supplies there for emergencies like this one.
So far, the British Red Cross has given out 3,000 blankets, 2,000 tarpaulins and 3,000 mosquito nets for people whose homes were destroyed or damaged.
Zimbabwe Red Cross volunteers are already helping with this and collecting data on what further help is needed.
The Red Cross will continue to help
While the rains and wind have passed, for some the worst may still be coming. With clean water sources destroyed or contaminated, disease caused by dirty water is a huge threat.
A British Red Cross emergency water and sanitation team arrived in Mozambique today. Its specialists and equipment will help provide clean water and hygienic toilets to keep people safe from waterborne disease.
Mozambique was already the second poorest country in the world before this crisis. People will need help to stay healthy and safe during what promises to be a very long rebuilding process.
“I recently visited Zimbabwe and know that Red Cross teams in the Zimbabwe warehouse and across the region have swung into action,” Alexander said.
“Red Cross organisations are also sending specialists in health, shelter and emergency logistics to support people now and into the future.
“Please support the Red Cross’ Cyclone Idai appeal. Together, we can make a big difference to people who have lost everything.”