MORE than 500 people are still missing in Rusitu Valley in Chimanimani district as rescue efforts are being hampered by damaged roads, 3 Infantry Brigade commander Major General Joe Muzvidziwa, who is leading the army rescue mission, has said.
Efforts to rescue victims of Cyclone Idai are still underway with the military yesterday being assisted by a privately owned helicopter that was ferrying the critically injured from some of the affected areas to Mutambara Hospital and Skyline help centre.
Helicopters could not fly into the area since Sunday owing to bad weather conditions.
In an interview at Skyline junction in Chimanimani, Maj Gen Muzvidziwa said there is no sufficient data on the number of missing persons and those who have died especially in the Rusitu Valley where loss of human life and damage to infrastructure was extensive.
“We still need more nurses because those at Ngangu Clinic in Chimanimani Township are overwhelmed. At least doctors have arrived and they are already working.
“We are still getting reports of areas that need assistance and we have made several flights into some of the affected areas,” he said.
“We do not have sufficient data on the numbers of people who died and those that are missing. In fact, when the data collation is done, we are expecting the number of missing people not to be less than 500.
“The good thing is that the water levels have receded and if we manage to clear the roads we could have a clear picture by end of day tomorrow.”
Relief efforts to ease the plight of people affected by Cyclone Idai in Chimanimani has taken days to reach the epicentre of the disaster owing to impassable roads.
Manicaland provincial administrator Mr Edgar Seenza said teams have been deployed to find alternative routes that could be used to get food, medicine and other needs to the affected communities.
“We are still trying to reach the affected areas and relief teams are on the ground trying to find alternative routes to reach out to the affected communities,” said Mr Seenza.
Roads were damaged while bridges were washed away after Cyclone Idai left a trail of destruction in Chimanimani and Chipinge districts.
As of yesterday motorists could only travel as far as Skyline junction from Jopa turn off near Chipinge but could not proceed to Chimanimani town nor the opposite Biriiri-Mutare road.
The heavily affected areas such as Rusitu, Ngangu in Chimanimani, Biriiri and surrounding areas.
Department of Civil Protection (DCP) Director Mr Nathan Nkomo yesterday warned people against visiting Cyclone Idai-ravaged areas saying traffic congestion on bad roads is disturbing rescue efforts at a time government has started assessing the extent of damage.
He said increased traffic is causing congestion that is disturbing transportation of relief supplies and slowing down rescue efforts.
He said they are failing to reach Ngangu and Mutambara Mission because of too much traffic.
Mr Nkomo urged people to reduce visits to ravaged areas because the roads are not in good condition which may lead to further disaster.
“We have been assigned to reach hotspots which are Ngangu and Mutambara Mission to help cyclone victims but the road is congested. I urge the public to reduce the number of visits because the roads are so bad and too much traffic on bad roads will lead to further disaster,” he said.
In a separate interview, Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister July Moyo said with assistance from the army and other departments, his Ministry had started assessing how much will be required to repair destroyed infrastructure.
He said on Monday helicopters managed to access areas that were not accessible the day before making it easier for engineers to see the damage caused by the cyclone.
“As we monitor the situation in Manicaland and assist the affected people we’re also assessing the extent of damage caused by the cyclone. The cyclone destroyed infrastructure in many parts of the province, especially bridges, roads, schools and homesteads.
“Unfortunately some areas are not accessible because the roads were blocked and there’s mist in the area. We’ve only managed to see half of the bridges that were destroyed. As soon as it clears and we manage to see the rest of the bridges and infrastructure we’ll be able to tell how much we need for reconstruction,” said Minister Moyo.
He said it was a horrendous experience for affected people, including school children to wait for rescuers in such conditions.
“The army helicopters yesterday managed to have access to the affected areas and there’s progress. We have army engineers who’re working with our engineers to give us definitive costs when they finish assessing the situation,” said Minister Moyo.
He said the cyclone had left a huge trail of destruction leaving his Ministry with much work on its hands.
The Minister added that the area was mountainous and most people were living on the sides of mountains.