Thousands feared dead after Cyclone Idai rips through southern Africa

The full scale of the devastation caused by Cyclone Idai across Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi is become clearer as the death toll across the region continues to rise with thousands still missing.

Mozambique's president said he feared as many as 1,000 people may have died in the country alone in what is being described as the worst flooding in the region in 20 years.

Mozambique appears to have borne the brunt of the storm after making landfall in the Indian Ocean port city of Beira on Thursday before lashing neighbouring Zimbabwe and Malawi.

The World Food Programme (WFP) estimate that 1.7 million people were in the direct path of cyclone.

Children stand near a shelter in Chimanimani in Zimbabwe. Credit: AP

Aid agencies are trying to reach people across the region trapped by flood waters that continue to rise, but rescue efforts are being hampered by continuous torrential rain.

Sacha Myers, who is based in Mozambique as part of Save the Children's emergency health team told ITV News the situation was getting "worse by the second".

News had been hindered after the cyclone knocked out electricity, shut down the airport and cut off access to communities, but details are slowly emerging from across the region.

  • Mozambique

The port city Beira, home to 500,000 people, has been hardest hit, with thousands of homes destroyed.

Speaking on state Radio Mozambique on Monday Mr Nyusi, described the situation as "a real disaster of great proportions."

He said entire villages had been submerged after rivers burst their banks and feared the death toll, which currently stands at 84, could rise as high as 1,000.

  • Footage provided by International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)

Emergency workers said they do not know whether the fatalities will reach that estimate, but thousands could be vulnerable to disease outbreaks that are common following a natural disaster on this scale.

The disaster has forced thousands to flee their homes for evacuation centres that are already struggling to cope with the huge numbers needing shelter.

The cities of Dondo and Chimoio in central Mozambique are also badly affected and there are concerns for rural areas communities where access remains "near-impossible," according to the WFP.

Cyclone Idai made landfall on Thursday. Credit: Josh/Care/AP

Aerial assessments have spotted people clinging to rooftops waiting to be rescued, Ms Myers said.

She told ITV News: "The government of Mozambique said yesterday that they have concerns that around 100,000 people need to be urgently rescued.

"Those are people in flood hit areas; the water levels are still rising, it's still raining, and we have a number of dams and a number of rivers that we're extremely concerned are going to burst their banks and that whole communities will go under water."

A woman with a baby stand among the wreckage caused by Cyclone Idai. Credit: Josh/Care/AP
  • Zimbabwe

In neighbouring Zimbabwe the death toll stood at 98, the government said on Tuesday, while hundreds more were reported missing.

Soldiers were handing out aid to people in the badly hit mountain town of Chimanimani where several roads leading into the town had been cut off.

  • Malawi

The devastation wrecked by Cyclone Idai in Mozambique. Credit: AP

Around 900,000 in Malawi are also thought to have been affected by the cyclone, according to United Nations estimates.

Malawi's government confirmed 56 deaths with three people missing and 577 injured in the flooding,.

In the southern district of Nsanje 11,000 households were displaced.

People queue for aid after Cyclone Idai struck Zimbabwe. Credit: AP
  • What is the international communities response?

The Red Cross said the situation was "heartbreaking" and estimated at least 90% of Beira was "completely destroyed".

Along with UN agencies, the Red Cross were delivering emergency food and medicine by helicopter to the region.

Britain has pledged up to £6 million of aid to send humanitarian relief to people affected by Cyclone Idai.

People stand by a flooded river. Credit: AP

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said a team of experts was on the ground in Mozambique helping to co-ordinate the UK's response.

Tents and thousands of shelter kits will be sent to the country on Tuesday, and Ms Mordaunt said the UK stands ready to "scale up our support if needed".

Four tons of high-energy biscuits are being air dropped Monday as part of 20 tons of food that World Food Programme will distribute, the organisation's spokesperson said on Tuesday.