HARARE (Reuters) - At least 24 people have died in south eastern Zimbabwe as homes and bridges were swept away by a tropical storm, the country's information ministry said on Saturday.

Cyclone Idai, which brought floodwater and destruction to areas of Mozambique and Malawi, hit Zimbabwe on Friday, cutting off power and communications.

"Number of deaths is confirmed at 24 mainly from Chimanimani east. The number of missing people is currently 40 (and) the fatalities include 2 students," the ministry said on Twitter.

Joshua Sacco, a member of parliament in the eastern district of Chimanimani, told Reuters that the storm had left a trail of destruction reminiscent of Cyclone Eline in February 2000, which devastated southern Zimbabwe.

Sacco said the death toll was expected to rise as authorities continued to assess the situation.

Chimanimani, which borders Mozambique, has been worst affected, with the storm causing floods as well as destroying crops, Zimbabwe's Ministry of Information said.

Air force helicopters were rescuing people, but flights were being slowed by heavy winds.

Zimbabwe has faced a severe drought this year that has damaged crops and a United Nations humanitarian agency says 5.3 million people will require food aid this year.

The country's meteorological services expect rains to continue throughout the weekend.

(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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