By Norma Tsopo
Death reports are mounting in the Eastern Highlands where 28 deaths have been confirmed with over 70 people missing as the deadly Tropical Cyclone Idai barrels through from central Mozambique.
Tens of families have been less homeless as the cyclone tore through the mountainous region as it moves further inland.
The cyclone – for the first time, exposed the region’s vulnerability to landslides which accounted for most of the deaths after the phenomenon knocked over 100 houses in Chimanimani town’s high density area killing at least 21 people with over 40 people missing, according to official statistics.
Manicaland Civil Protection Unit (CPU) chairperson Wilson Bore said a Roman Catholic boy’s school in the region lost three people – two form one pupils and a security guard, in another massive land slide that swept the school’s water tanks and dining hall before crushing the boys in their dormitory.
In Rusitu homes disappeared with their occupants as the cyclone dumped more than 600 mm in 24 hours soaking the mountainous region with water that has seen unprecedented levels of floods that have swept off countless bridges.
Chimanimani is currently completely isolated and only accessible by air which though sanctioned cannot be make any rescue operations because of the weather.
It has cut off roads, power and communications in parts of Manicaland province on the border with Mozambique.
Tens of people are marooned in Chimanimani and Chipinge. Many others fleeing into the mountains awaiting rescue including 13 Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company employees who are stranded in Mawenje Mountain waiting for rescue but strong winds and poor visibility have hampered helicopter flights.
The official death toll is expected to rise as information filters through and as rescue teams gain access to the affected areas.
The cyclone made landfall on Thursday north of Beira, Mozambique, with its strength equivalent to a Category 3 major hurricane in the Atlantic or eastern Pacific oceans with winds of up to 225km per hour.
Prior to the cyclone’s most recent landfall, it had reportedly killed over 100 people by flash flooding across Mozambique and Malawi.
Idai first tracked into north-central Mozambique as a tropical depression with torrential rain last week before moving back over water and rapidly strengthening over the northern Mozambique Channel last weekend and early this week.
While land interaction has caused the winds around Idai to lessen, it has been devastating in Chimanimani as communication centred mostly on the need for people to be wary of violent winds and the risk of flooding in low lying areas which have traditionally been the major threat.