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Aid Has Begun To Reach The Areas Hardest Hit By Cyclone Idai In Africa

Mar 22, 2019
Originally published on March 22, 2019 8:36 pm
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Meanwhile, some other news. More than 500 people have died since a monster cyclone made landfall in southern Africa last week. Slowly, aid has begun to reach the hardest-hit areas. In Mozambique and Zimbabwe, there is a glimmer of good news. The sun has come out, and the floodwaters have begun to recede. NPR's Eyder Peralta reports.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Caroline Haga of the Red Cross was one of the first to get images of devastation out to the world. Her footage from helicopters showed Beira, a port city in Mozambique, almost completely underwater, destroyed by Cyclone Idai. Today, she says, and for the first time, things felt a little normal.

CAROLINE HAGA: I saw people on the streets. They were building or fixing their house or stairwell, drying their clothes because everything is wet here after all that relentless rain.

PERALTA: In some places, the water had started to recede and helicopters, which have been rescuing people off roofs and trees, were able to land on dry terrain. But Gemma Connell of the U.N. says while the water is receding, they are not relaxing.

GEMMA CONNELL: What we do anticipate is that there is still the possibility of secondary floods, and therefore we are on high alert if this situation should worsen.

PERALTA: The level of devastation, says Connell, is hard to fathom. Mozambique was already dealing with flooding before this cyclone, and in neighboring Zimbabwe, a long drought meant that millions were already in need of food aid. Now homes are washed away, crops have been destroyed and there is a huge risk of cholera and malaria spreading across a vulnerable population. Paolo Cernuschi works for International Rescue Committee in Zimbabwe.

PAOLO CERNUSCHI: This is - it's almost a third level of crisis to hit Zimbabwe.

PERALTA: He says the good news is that today, for the first time, they were able to make it into one of the hardest-hit areas. They are delivering food and water, the essentials to keep people alive. But the future, that is much more complex.

CERNUSCHI: The reconstruction and the long-term impact is something that still needs to be quantified, but it will be severe.

PERALTA: In the meantime, the death toll is expected to keep rising as floodwaters recede and more bodies are found. Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Nairobi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.