SOME 300 dead victims of last week’s deadly Cyclone Idai in Manicaland have been washed away into neighbouring Mozambique where they have been spotted floating by villagers.
This was said by Local Government Minister July Moyo at a post-cabinet media briefing in Harare Tuesday.
Officially however the death toll from the disaster that hit the country from Friday stands at 98 with hundreds more reportedly still missing.
In his comments, Moyo said some locals were being contacted by villagers from Rusitu, a Zimbabwean area and those in neighbouring Mozambique informing them of the floating bodies.
“The distress calls started coming from Kopa, in Rusitu where two rivers which converge there burst and we understand there are bodies which are floating.
“Some have floated all the way into Mozambique and some of the peasants in that country were calling some of our people saying that ‘we see bodies, we believe those bodies are coming from Zimbabwe.
“The total number we were told there could be a hundred, some going as far as saying there could be 300 but we cannot confirm this situation. Our army is going on foot to Rusitu in order to go and assess the situation on the ground,” said Moyo.
Moyo said areas around Kopa, Chikukwa, Ngangu and Chimanimani were hardest hit by the disaster while the effects of the cyclone in remote villages were yet to be determined as there was no means of communication.
The number of deaths is expected to rise, according to the minister.
“The number of casualties has been a fast-moving figure. Most of the casualties come from either collapsed buildings in which some are currently trapped or secondly the mudslides where people are buried. We have not moved enough equipment to do the job of excavating.
“People have resorted to using shovels. That is why it is important for us to move equipment out there. Some have been taken by rivers which swept whole homesteads…this 98 I am sure will not be the last we will hear,” the Local Government Minister said.
Moyo said government was not able to tell whether the missing people are part of bodies reportedly floating in Rusitu and some parts of Mozambique.
Chikomba, Buhera, Mutare Urban and Rural, Mutasa, Nyanga are some of the areas affected by Cyclone Idai.
However, government says the areas do not have the intensity of the devastation witnessed in Chipinge and Chimanimani.
Government is currently exploring methods of transporting food and other amenities that include clothing and shelter as all roads and bridges to affected areas were washed away.
The army and air force are currently using helicopters to rescue marooned villagers in far-flung areas.
Crowdfunding initiatives have been set in motion in a bid to raise funds to finance the rescue and rehabilitation of victims.
Government has since donated RTGS$50 million towards the reconstruction and relief efforts.
Cyclone Idai, which hit Mozambique the hardest on Sunday, is being regarded as the worst natural disaster to hit the region in years.
Some 1,000 people have been reported dead in Mozambique.