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Cyclone Idai Swiss send aid to disaster-stricken southern Africa

Residents inspecting the damages after cyclone Idai hit central Mozambique

Up to 1.7 million people have been affected by the tropical storm in southern Africa, destroying huge areas notably in Mozambique. 

(Keystone /Josh Estey/Care/Handout)

Switzerland has sent experts and a first shipment of aid to Mozambique to help the victims of a violent tropical storm that has torn through southern Africa.

A team of experts of the Humanitarian Aid Unitexternal link arrived in the Mozambican capital Maputo at the weekend to assess the situation, the foreign ministry said. In a first step, 12 tons of emergency aid material were brought to the island.

Switzerland’s deputy ambassador to Mozambique, Leo Näschler, warned that the cyclone caused more damage than initially estimated.

“It will be a challenge to bring the aid to the disaster area,” Näschler told Swiss public radio SRF.

He said he had seen pictures of villages completely submerged and hospitals, schools and warehouses seriously damaged. “People are waiting for help on the roofs of buildings.”

Mozambique’s second city, Beira, with a population of about 500,000, is cut off from the outside world and detailed information is sparse, according to Näschler.

International aid shipments are expected to reach Maputo in the next few days, but transport lines to the worst-hit regions are interrupted.

A leading official of the International Committee of the Red Cross was quoted as saying that 90% of the area around Beira is destroyed.

Worst weather-related disaster

It is believed that up to 1,000 people were killed and many more injured in the storm which tore across Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi last Friday.

United Nations officials say the possibly worst weather-related disaster ever to hit the southern hemisphere affected 1.7 million people, according to the Reuters news agency.

Rivers burst their banks, killing hundreds of people and causing “incredible devastation” over a huge area, a leading official of the UN World Food Programme said.

International organisations are planning on extending their aid operations. They have called for donations to help those in need.

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