A magazine for Africans and friends of Africa...Our Voices, Our Vision, Our Culture

MOZAMBIQUE: Counting the cost of cyclone Favio

BEIRA, 23 February 2007 (IRIN) - Mozambican disaster response teams on Friday began the job of assessing the damage caused by cyclone Favio, 24-hours after it tore through the central town of Vilankulo.

Winds reaching 180km/h ripped off roofs and destroyed perhaps hundreds of homes when the storm made landfall. At least 70 people were injured, reported Casimiro Abreu, who is leading relief efforts in the area. As many as 93,000 in Vilankulo and nearby districts have been affected.

Power is still out in Vilankulo, and with it the city's main water pump. The hospital is roofless, as is the jail, and according to one report prisoners escaped during the storm.

Favio lost much of its lethal strength after slamming into Vilankulo. It continues to bring rain to other parts of Mozambique, but the rainfall is not expected to worsen the situation further north in the Zambezi Valley, where the worst flooding in six years has displaced more than 120,000 people over the last two weeks, said Paulo Zucula, head of the government's disaster agency (INGC).

"For the next five days I don't see problems," commented Zucula. But the INGC is aware another storm is forming off the eastern coast of Madagascar, which could threaten Mozambique next week.

Relief efforts in the Zambezi Valley have gained speed as logistical wrinkles have been smoothed out. Speaking in Caia, the base of all flood relief operations, Zucula said that relief workers recently reached seven accommodation centres in the isolated Mutarara district, which the INGC learned of only days before.

Aid supplies have been dropped at least once at each of the more than 50 sites where some 70,000 people have sought refuge, Zucula said. "They are not getting three meals a day, but they are getting one or two."

When relief efforts began, some centres were only reachable by helicopter, and only one helicopter was available. A second helicopter is now in use, and Zucula said his staff was mapping maze-like waterways by air to aid boat operations.

"My biggest worry is providing water, and basic sanitation," he said. "It is something more basic than food. It will kill you right away if you get cholera."

Every accommodation centre will have received water treatment supplies by next week, said Miguel Freitas of the United Nations Children's Fund. Mutarara, cut off by river waters, remains the least served area.