Cyclone Idai hit the borderline areas of Zimbabwe on Friday afternoon from the Mozambique Channel, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake, with some families, especially in Manicaland province, seeking refuge in the mountains after their homes were swept away by floods while bridges were washed away, making rescue efforts extremely difficult.
Chimanimani resident Mariam Chikomba, who crossed the Rusitu River before the floods hit, said most homes and cars had been swept, amid fears that some victims could have been buried under mudslides.
“As I speak, there are children and their parents marooned in the middle of water and crying out for help, even at the Zaoga Church close to the banana plantation, there is a man crying out for help, trapped under a tree, but nobody can reach him,” she said.
Japhet Muvhulo said he had learnt that the Roman Catholic bishop from Rusitu Church was trapped in the mountains.
“The bishop from Rutsitu church is fine, but as we speak, he is in the mountains, his car was swept by the rains, nobody has access to the village,” he said.
Government said its rescue efforts were being hampered by bad weather as Air Force of Zimbabwe helicopters could not manoeuvre to rescue those trapped on islands, while most roads were impassable.
“The army is moving in from Chipinge to rescue 197 pupils from Charles Luwanga, so they can take them to Mhandarume. This is a very challenging operation as it is being undertaken as a ground effort because of unsafe weather conditions for air efforts,” the Information ministry said.
Thousands are feared injured and homeless in Chipinge, Chimanimani districts and Masvingo’s Zaka and Bikita districts.
Chipinge was cut off the power grid and the whole town plunged into darkness and without access to clean water since Friday as strong winds uprooted pylons.
The trail of destruction in the suburbs is huge after most houses were destroyed, especially in Gazza O surburb.
Due to the blackout, mortuaries in Chimanimani have been hit hard, raising fears of another catastrophe.
In Masvingo, three children died after their house gave in on Friday night, according to the provincial CPU head and provincial administrator, Fungai Mbetsa, while the roof at Mutimurefu Prison was blown off, leaving the prisoners exposed to the rains.
“The rains are still pouring, but the strong winds have subsidised. The number of those injured is yet to be verified, but bridges like Mujiche is impassable.
We are still gathering more information,” he said.
In Chikomba district, Mashonaland East, an 83-year-old man died after he was swept by a flooded river following the cyclone-induced heavy rains that have been pouring in the area for the past two days.
The floods have also resulted in the destruction of 20 houses in Masasa area in Chikomba’s ward 17, according to acting provincial administrator, Clemence Masawi.