By Auxilia Katongomara
Government has said some bodies of people who have been reported missing following the ravaging Cyclone Idai are reportedly floating in Mozambique and the army is on its way to retrieve them.
Presenting a Ministerial statement in Parliament on Tuesday, Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Cde July Moyo said the country had witnessed a very severe calamity caused by the cyclone.
He said tropical Cyclone Idai had affected people, mostly in Chimanimani East Constituency in Manicaland.
Cde Moyo said some bodies are reportedly floating in the neighbouring country which was also badly affected by the cyclone.
‘The terrible one is what we are now witnessing at Kopa. At some point we were told we were missing 147 people. Now we are hearing that some of the bodies of those who are missing are floating in the river and we are being told by villagers in Mozambique as well as Kopa area, even at our command office today as I walked in after coming from Manicaland, people were calling to say more bodies are floating. The army is on its way now and we believe they will be able to retrieve those who are at Kopa and Rusitu,” said Cde Moyo.
While I am saying this, all of us are now aware of the casualties which you have mentioned Mr Speaker. The number of deaths that you have mentioned, 98 and I cannot right now definitively say that is the total because the total is a moving figure.
We started at 23, we moved to 31, immediately we moved to 42, we were at 64, sometime at 72, last night we were at 89, this morning we were talking about the 96 and we can confirm the 98 that we are talking about”.
Cde Moyo told legislators that rescue efforts were delayed because the two main routes from Mutare going to Chimanimani which are tarred, were both impassable as bridges had been washed away.
He said army engineers had worked tirelessly to construct roads.
“We are fortunate that once the army reached Skyline and there was no other mode of transport to cover the rest of the mileage to Chimanimani, Gangu or Chikukwa, the army decided to go on foot. Army engineers and other soldiers were able to reach Gangu two days ago. What they found there obviously is horrific,” said the Minister.
“We were able to bury, with their assistance, the 45 bodies that were in Chimanimani in schools or homes but obviously having no electricity, we had to use traditional methods of preserving, jecha and other methods. We have been able to bury the 45 at Gangu that were there.”
He said at St Charles Lwanga Secondary School near Skyline, 50 pupils were trapped in the dining room by mudslides while they were eating on Friday.
“Two of the children perished in there, plus a worker at that school. For two days, we could not rescue the children and take those who were deceased to a safe place. So you can imagine the children together with dead bodies for two days,” said Cde Moyo.
“We were able to evacuate the bodies because the mortuary at Chipinge was now working. At the same time, yesterday (Monday) the army was able to get all the 175 children out. It is an all boys’ boarding school with the girls being day scholars. We were able to meet all the boys that survived the ordeal at Wattle Company and they were being assisted by their headmaster together with the school authorities from Chipinge.”
Cde Moyo applauded the army for its immense contribution to rescue efforts.
“I thought I should start with this just to give you the extent of the damage that is there but I can say that Government has done all it can. Certainly, the army has braved the weather as it is raining, foggy and yesterday we were able to have the first flights of three helicopters.
“Two from Air Force Of Zimbabwe and one private from Mars which was hired by the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company which had 13 people marooned on a hill that they could not leave for two days.
“They were rescued yesterday but the company did not just rescue its own people. They ended up rescuing a number of villagers who had been taken to safety. The company which hired Mars has put that Mars helicopter at our disposal and it is continuing to evacuate people,” he said.
Cde Moyo said from the $50 million availed by Government, more than $30 million will be used to repair bridges because access to the area is the most fundamental.
“The rest is spread to Ministries of Health, Local Government because of the Civil Protection Unit, and the other ministries which also give relief including the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company because we now urgently need them to restore electricity in the area,” he said.
The Minister said even though they have spent more time in Chimanimani and Chipinge, they had not forgotten that the people in Buhera, Masvingo, Zaka, Gutu, Nyanga and Mutasa had also been affected.
“We told all the people not only through radio, television or newspapers but through the structures that are in place and responsible for disaster management. The structures go up to village heads. We have over 28 000 village heads,” he said.
He said traditional leaders, Non-Governmental Organisations that are also operating in the affected areas were informed. The Chronicle