'Dozens of casualties' as Cyclone Idai hits Mozambique

'Dozens of casualties' as Cyclone Idai hits Mozambique

'Dozens of casualties' as Cyclone Idai hits Mozambique

Parts of Mozambique were cut off on Friday as a tropical storm battered the coast and the major port city of Beira with heavy rain and winds of up to up 170kph.

At least 19 people died in Mozambique, according to the government, while a further 24 perished in Zimbabwe, state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation reported.

The UN office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs' initial assessment shows that hectares of crops, schools and health facilities have been extensively damaged and that the country is a greater risk of water-borne diseases because of destruction and interruption of water supply.

Villages have been left underwater and floods washed away houses and knocked out power in some areas.

The World Meteorological Organization said that although the storm is now weakening, it has affected "tens of thousands" of people living there as heavy rain is expected to pelt the country over the next several days. "Many homes have been left without roofs", said Alberto Mondlane, the provincial governor.

Nearly 100,000 people had been forced to leave their homes across the two countries, where humanitarian operations are already underway.

Beira's global airport was closed after the cyclone made landfall, damaging the air traffic control tower, the navigation systems and the runways.

An official at the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) told AFP earlier that "houses and trees were destroyed and pylons downed".

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"Some runway lights were damaged, the navigation system is damaged, the control tower antennas and the control tower itself are all damaged".

"The runway is full of obstacles and parked aircrafts are damaged".

Some passengers said, though, that they were unaware of the cancellations until they arrived at the airport attempting to leave.

South Africa's power utility company Eskom on Saturday introduced severe electricity rationing "due to the loss of additional capacity, which includes a reduction in imports from Mozambique", it said in a statement.

Local officials said that this week's heavy rains had already claimed 66 lives, injured 111 people and displaced 17,000 people.

They had also affected neighbouring Malawi, where 56 people died and almost a million others were affected, the government said.

There have been emergency relief camps opened, with President Peter Mutharika declaring a national emergency.

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