Flood waters cover large tracts of land in Nicoadala, Zambezia Province of Mozambique. (Photo World Food Programme via AP)

JOHANNESBURG - The full extent of the Mozambique humanitarian emergency was still emerging days after the deadly Cyclone Idai hit the city of Beira and left a trail of death and destruction, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said on Tuesday.

With reports that at least 400,000 people have been made homeless in central Mozambique, IFRC - the world’s largest humanitarian network - warned that the full extent of the “humanitarian catastrophe” caused by the hurricane may take days to become clear.

Latest reports from that country said as many as 1,000 people may have perished and as much as 90% of Beira had been destroyed. 

In neigbhouring Zimbabwe, as many as 89 people were reported to have lost their lives in Chimanimani after the Cyclone swelled rivers and washed away roads and bridges. Malawi has also been affected.

Jamie LeSueur, who is leading response efforts in Beira for the IFRC) said: “This is the worst humanitarian crisis in Mozambique’s recent history. 

"It is a humanitarian catastrophe for the people of Central Mozambique. Large parts of Beira have been damaged, entire villages and towns have been completely flooded. 

"Rescuers are scrambling to pull people trapped on rooftops and in trees to safety. Many, many families have lost everything.” 

LeSueur said large areas to the west of Beira have been severely flooded. In some areas close to the Buzi and Pungwe rivers, flood water are metres deep and have completely covered homes, telephone poles and trees.

“The scale of suffering and loss is still not clear, and we expect that the number of people affected as well as the number of people who have lost their lives may rise,” said Jamie LeSueur.

IFRC and Mozambique Red Cross on Tuesday launched a 10 million Swiss franc emergency appeal to support about 75,000 of the worst affected people in central Mozambique. The appeal prioritises shelter, and water and sanitation.

Red Cross teams in Beira were distributing shelter supplies to affected families in Beira.

"Additional supplies for at least 3,000 families are being brought in by ship from the French Red Cross’ Indian Ocean Regional intervention Platform (PIROI in French) on Réunion Island. Red Cross volunteers in Beira are also handing out chlorine so that people can purify water," said LeSueur.

He said aid workers were worried about the health risks.

“Waterborne diseases can increase in the aftermath of a disaster such as this due to the contamination of the water supply and disruption of usual water treatment. Outbreaks of viral gastroenteritis, hepatitis, cholera and other diseases could follow as a result,” LeSueur said.

Malaria is endemic in Mozambique, peaking during the December to April rainy season. The extensive flooding could result in stagnant water that could become perfect breeding sites for mosquitoes.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is also present in the affected area. The ICRC has launched its Restoring Family Links activities to assist families separated by the cyclone to reconnect or register any missing persons they may be aware of. 

ICRC also deployed a forensics specialist to help manage the dead in a dignified way and donated fuel to Beira Central Hospital to ensure the critical health facility in the province continues to have power.  

African News Agency (ANA)