By Norma Tsopo
Only two South African tourists were caught up in Chimanimani where Tropical Cyclone Idai has killed over 65 people with over 150 people still unaccounted for.
Chimanimani Tourist Association secretary Jane High said the two tourists who are now unable to drive out after a series of bridges were swept away are safe at Chimanimani Farm House.
“Only two visitors stuck here (South Africans). They are fine and staying at Doug and Tempe Van Der Ruit,” High said.
The mountainous tourist resort was the hardest hit region in the eastern highlands with a section of the town crushed by a land slide while a growth point less than 50 km away, Copper – at the confluence of two major rivers, was completely submerged under water.
The region registered the heaviest recorded rainfall in history shattering records that had been set over three decades ago in its worst ever natural disaster.
The cyclone – for the first time, exposed the region’s vulnerability to landslides.
Landslides destroyed at least five streets in Chimanimani town’s Ngangu high density suburb killing over 30, killed two pupils who were sleeping in their dormitory at St Charles Lwanga and a security guard at the Roman Catholic school while countless houses in Rusitu valley were swept away with their inhabitants.
Copper which lay at the confluence of Rusitu and Nyahode rivers was completely submerged mainly because of Rusitu – which drains Chimanimani Mountains burst its banks forcing Nyahode River to back up completely submerging the growth point.
Chimanimani is currently completely isolated by road with electricity and telecommunications infrastructure cut off by the storm.
Tens of people are still marooned in the district and neighbouring Chipinge.
Others fleeing into the mountains awaiting rescue including 13 Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company and Mawenje Lodge employees are stranded in Mawenje Mountain waiting for air rescue which has been hampered by strong winds and poor visibility.
The official death toll is expected to rise as information filters through and as rescue teams gain access to the affected areas.