The Latest: US general in Mozambique to plan relief efforts
BEIRA, Mozambique (AP) — The Latest on the efforts to recover from Cyclone Idai in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi (all times local):
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. James D. Craig, the commanding general of the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, is in Mozambique to get a first-hand look at the devastation Cyclone Idai caused throughout the region earlier this month.
The general met with U.S. Ambassador to Mozambique Dennis Hearne and members of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Disaster Assistance Response Team to discuss the post-storm crisis situation in Mozambique and neighboring countries.
The U.S. military will be the lead coordinator for the U.S. government’s international disaster response effort.
“We are responding as quickly and safely as possible to help bring relief from the devastation,” said Craig.
The U.S. task force is planning to airlift food, medical supplies and other relief materials and to provide air crew, communications and other staff members to support the crisis response efforts.
“We care about the people of Mozambique and are focused on supporting USAID to ensure a comprehensive response to this crisis,” said Craig.
The Portuguese news agency Lusa cites Mozambican authorities as saying the death toll from Cyclone Idai has risen to 468.
The toll had been 447. Mozambique’s disaster management authority announced the new toll on Tuesday.
There are also 259 dead in Zimbabwe and at least 56 dead in Malawi.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is urging the international community to quickly fund emergency aid appeals for Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, saying they have suffered “one of the worst weather-related catastrophes in the history of Africa.”
He told reporters that the $282 million appeal for Mozambique will be followed by revised appeals for Zimbabwe and Malawi in the days ahead.
Guterres said the devastation has affected 3 million people, nearly two-thirds of them in Mozambique, and “there are reports that $1 billion worth of infrastructure has been destroyed.” Many areas still have no electricity.
The U.N. chief called Cyclone Idai an “uncommonly fierce and prolonged storm — yet another alarm bell about the dangers of climate change, especially in vulnerable, at-risk countries.”
He said such events are becoming more frequent and devastating, “and this will only get worse if we do not act now.”
The World Health Organization says it is expecting a “spike” in malaria cases in Mozambique after a devastating cyclone. The widespread flooding caused by Cyclone Idai has left large bodies of standing water where malaria-carrying mosquitoes can breed.
WHO also says 900,000 oral cholera vaccines were approved over the weekend and are expected to arrive later this week for the launch of an oral vaccine campaign.
Authorities have said cases of cholera are expected as hundreds of thousands of displaced people shelter in camps with little or no access to clear water or sanitation.
Cholera is caused by eating contaminated food or drinking water and can kill within hours.
The United Nations World Food Program received a US$280,000 from the European Union to help provide urgently-needed logistical support to the humanitarian response in the wake of the cyclone that has devastated eastern Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique.
The funds will support the deployment of a U.N. Humanitarian Air Service helicopter that will work to deliver much-needed assistance to the two most-affected districts in Zimbabwe. The helicopter will deliver medicine, shelter equipment, food and transport of personnel to the areas of Chimanimani and Chipinge, the worst-hit districts in Zimbabwe.
WFP plans emergency food assistance to approximately 270,000 people in seven affected districts in Zimbabwe, including Chimanimani and Chipinge, for three months.
Cyclone Idai hit Beira, Mozambique on 14 March, and continued across the plains of central Mozambique and devastated eastern Zimbabwe with heavy rains and strong winds. Roads and bridges, particularly in the district of Chimanimani, were washed away and communities left stranded. In Zimbabwe, some 250,000 people have been affected, and at least 154 deaths have been reported by the government plus another 120 Zimbabwean bodies were swept into Mozambique and buried there.
Relief operations are pressing into remote areas to find survivors of the cyclone that ripped into central Mozambique, while trucks carrying aid attempt to travel a badly damaged road to the hard-hit city of Beira.
The United Nations is making an emergency appeal for $282 million for the next three months and says some 1.8 million people in Mozambique need urgent help after Cyclone Idai.
Authorities say the death toll of at least 761 is “very preliminary” and more bodies will be found as floodwaters drain away.
Diseases such as cholera are expected as more than a quarter-million survivors gather in displacement camps both formal and informal.
The United States says it has donated nearly $3.4 million in emergency food assistance to the U.N.’s World Food Program.