CAPE TOWN, South Africa — Two boys at a Catholic boarding
school in Zimbabwe are among the more than 300 people killed in the
aftermath of a cyclone that slammed into Mozambique, Zimbabwe and
Malawi. Officials fear the death toll from the cyclone could reach
A landslide sent rocks crashing into a dormitory at St.
Charles Lwanga Seminary Secondary School in Mutare Diocese in Zibabwe,
trapping about 50 students and staff. They dug themselves out, and
teachers carried the boys’ bodies for about 10 miles in the Chimanimani
district, a mountainous area in eastern Zimbabwe, before the group was
picked up by the army and taken to the nearest hospital.
Mozambique, more than 200 people have died and nearly 350,000 are at
risk, President Filipe Nyusi said March 19. In Zimbabwe, the government
said about 100 people had died, but the death toll could triple.
very difficult to know the extent of the damage” and the death toll,
with collapsed infrastructure and communication lines down, Erica
Dahl-Bredine, Catholic Relief Services’ representative for Mozambique,
said in a March 18 telephone interview.
second-largest city and a major port, “is almost completely destroyed,
and some areas outside the city are impossible to reach,” she said. The
cyclone knocked out electricity, shut down Beira’s international airport
and cut off access to the city by road.
“People are stranded on
roofs of houses and in trees, waiting for help,” Dahl-Bredine said,
noting that roads and bridges have been washed away.
With overflowing rivers, whole villages have been submerged and bodies were floating in the floodwaters, she said.
Relief Services is working with local Caritas and other church and
relief groups to assess the needs and provide help, she said.
Mozambique is a long, narrow country of about 30 million people with a 1,500-mile coastline along the Indian Ocean.
The cyclone, called Idai, landed in Beira late March 14 before moving to Zimbabwe with strong winds and heavy rain.
Zimbabwe is a landlocked country, the “sheer force and strength of the
cyclone” was worse than anticipated, Rita Billingsley, who works for
Catholic Relief Services in Zimbabwe, said in a March 19 telephone
interview from the capital, Harare.
With crops, livestock and
homes destroyed in the storm, “about 12,000 people are believed to have
lost their livelihoods” in Zimbabwe, Billingsley said, noting that
numbers are expected to rise in affected countries as the extent of the
cyclone’s destruction becomes clearer.
Church premises throughout
Zimbabwe are being used to provide refuge for those who have lost their
homes, as well as to coordinate the emergency response with all those
involved, she said. With “overwhelming local support,” the church is
“well placed to give a targeted and meaningful response.”
to get supplies to those who need it most and quickly,” Billingsley
said, noting that supplies are ready and airdrops are planned.
rains, rockslides and fallen trees have destroyed roads and bridges in
many places, making rescue efforts very difficult, she said.
with the destruction of Beira, the trade route to Zimbabwe will have to
change and prices of goods are likely to rise, she said.
“Some goods won’t be available at all, which will harm the markets” around Zimbabwe, Billingsley said.
means in-kind support rather than cash” will be prioritized, she said,
noting that “provision of medical supplies is a major area of concern.”
Shortages of food, fuel and medical supplies are already acute in Zimbabwe.
the Vatican, Pope Francis prayed those affected by the flooding, which
has “sown sorrow and devastation,” be able to find comfort and support.
expressed his concern and sorrow for “the many victims and their
families” at the end of his general audience in St. Peter’s Square March
20. He said he was praying that those “hit by this calamity” would find
“comfort and support.”
Father Frederick Chiromba,
secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference, said in a
March 18 telephone interview from Harare that early warning systems for
the cyclone were in place but “the extent of the damage was worse than
we had expected.”
With “changing climate patterns, our droughts and other weather shocks seem to get more severe every time,” he said.
Malawi was also affected by the heavy rains. The government confirmed
56 deaths in the flooding, which caused rivers to burst their banks,
leaving houses submerged and around 11,000 households displaced.
How to help
Catholic Relief Services is collecting for cyclone victims to donate, visit bit.ly/2JrkYrL