HARARE – The death toll from the category-4 cyclone that struck Zimbabwe has risen to 139, with 189 others still missing, authorities confirmed on Thursday.
The Zimbabwean Ministry of Information said that at least 144 people were injured in Cyclone Idai, the storm that wreaked havoc across the African country on Saturday after making landfall in neighboring Mozambique. It also swept through landlocked nation of Malawi.
“As villagers, we come here every day, try to comb through the debris with the hope of getting closure to our relatives who are still missing. It is devastating,” the mayor of the eastern village of Chipinge, Dudzai Ndiyadzo, told the Zimbabwean press.
Nearby to Chipinge is the eastern district of Chimanimani, which was the worst-hit of all Zimbabwean districts with 127 of the 139 dead reported there, according to the information ministry.
In total, the information ministry estimated that over 4,300 people were displaced across seven Zimbabwean districts.
Ndiyadzo explained that helicopters began accessing the area on Tuesday, saying that the rescue operations were hindered by to strong winds and heavy rains that caused flash flooding.
Before heading toward Zimbabwe, the cyclone laid to waste Mozambique’s fourth largest city Beira, where more than 500,000 people reside.
Overall, Idai claimed more than 200 lives in Mozambique, though the southern African nation’s President Filipe Nyusi said the death toll could rise after declaring a state of emergency late Tuesday.
Meanwhile, World Food Program spokesman Herve Verhoosel said in a press conference Thursday that Idai had impacted 200,000 people in Zimbabwe, as well as 600,000 others in Mozambique.
In Malawi, more than 900,000 people were affected, Verhoosel added, with reports that the cyclone caused the deaths of 56 in the nation on the famed east African lake of the same name.
On Tuesday, the regional director for the UN World Food Program in Southern Africa, Lola Castro, told EFE by telephone that her organization was focusing its efforts on saving lives, describing the cyclone as an “unprecedented disaster.”
Castro added that high-energy biscuits were being airlifted and distributed to cyclone victims in Beira.
The United Nations and its humanitarian partners in Mozambique have appealed for $40.8 million to provide urgent aid for the African country.
The European commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management, Christos Stylianides, has pledged 3.5 million euros ($3.9 million) in emergency relief to the countries affected.