More than 1,000 people are feared dead in Mozambique four days after a cyclone, or ocean storm, hit the country. Entire villages were left underwater as bodies floated by, the nation's president said.
"It is a real disaster of great proportions," President Filipe Nyusi said.
Cyclone Idai could prove to be Mozambique’s deadliest storm in generations. It struck Thursday night in Beira, an Indian Ocean port of about 500,000 people. The storm's strong winds and heavy rains then moved inland toward Zimbabwe and Malawi.
Speaking on state Radio Mozambique, Nyusi said that even though the official death count in his country stood at 84, "It appears that we can register more than 1,000 deaths."
United Nations agencies and the Red Cross helped get emergency food and medicine by helicopter to the affected countries.
Mount Chiluvo, in central Mozambique, was badly hit by flooding. One person there said he heard a loud noise, like an explosion, and suddenly saw a river of mud flowing toward his home.
"I was indoors with my children, but when we looked, we saw mud coming down the road towards the houses and we fled," Francisco Carlitos told Lusa, the Portuguese News Agency.
The family lost their home and possessions.
Nyusi cut short a visit to neighboring Swaziland because of the disaster. He spoke on the radio after flying by helicopter over Beira and two rural provinces. He reported widespread destruction there.
"The waters of the Pungue and Buzi rivers overflowed, making whole villages disappear and isolating communities...," Nyusi said.
The Red Cross said 90 percent of the city was damaged or destroyed. The cyclone knocked out electricity, shut down the airport and blocked road travel to and from Beira.
The destruction there is "massive and horrifying," said Jamie LeSueur. He led a Red Cross helicopter team investigating the damage.
More than 215 people are confirmed dead from the storm in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi. Hundreds more are missing.
I’m Caty Weaver.
The Associated Press reported this story. Caty Weaver adapted it for VOA Learning English. was the editor.
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Words in This Story
proportions - n. the size, shape, or extent of something (plural)
isolate - v. to put or keep (someone or something) in a place or situation that is separate from others