President Emmerson Mnangagwa has declared a State of Disaster in respect to areas in Manicaland province that were affected by Cyclone Idia, which has claimed 31 lives and displaced 200 people, most of them in Chimanimani and Chipinge.
Among the casualties were two pupils and a security officer from St Charles Lwanga High School, and 10 victims from Ngangu Township in Chimanimani, which was the most affected.
More than a 100 people are still missing.
The declaration, which also covers areas likely to be affected by the cyclone, allows the Civil Protection Unit (CPU) to support communities and provide relief.
Acting President Dr Constantino Chiwenga yesterday extended his condolences to the bereaved families.
“On behalf of Government and the nation, and on my own behalf, I wish to express my condolences to the bereaved families affected by this disaster and to wish a speedy recovery to the injured.
“Given this tragic loss of life, the general devastation registered so far and the continuing torrential rains, His Excellency, the President, Cde Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, has declared a State of Disaster in respect of the affected areas or areas likely to be affected by Cyclone Idai in terms of Subsection (1) of Section 27 of the Civil Protection Act (Chapter 10:06),” he said.
Areas that currently lie in Cyclone Idai path include Manicaland, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland West, parts of Masvingo and Midlands provinces.
Harare and Matabeleland provinces are also likely to be affected. Acting President Chiwenga said “Government is working around the clock to manage this unfolding disaster”.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa last night commended the army and “local and international partners” for leading the rescue efforts in perilous conditions, which made it impossible to deploy helicopters and access some of the worst affected areas.
In a tweet last night, the President, who is away on an official State visit to the United Arab Emirates, wrote: “My thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by Cyclone Idai. Rescue operations are underway and we are grateful for the bravery of the men and women of the Zimbabwean armed forces who, along with our local and international partners, are participating in the urgent rescue efforts.”
Yesterday, rescuers braved inclement weather conditions as they battled to reach survivors. The army also undertook a ground operation to rescue 197 pupils who were marooned at St Charles Lwanga.
There is, however, hope that the rains would soon let up as the cyclone has weakened into a tropical depression, making it possible for rescuers to get into the affected areas.
The Metrological Services Department (MSD) said it expects “a significant decline” in rains by tomorrow.
“It is now a tropical depression which is subsiding and Monday (tomorrow) should see a significant decline in precipitation across the country if this situation is maintained.
“Going forward, the depression is expected to be controlling the weather over much of the country,” said the MSD in a statement yesterday.
Cyclone Idai — which is the worst weather-related disaster to affect the country after Cyclone Eline that claimed 91 lives — made a landfall in Mozambique Thursday.
It subsequently barrelled through Manicaland resulting in torrential rains. By yesterday afternoon, the cyclone’s epicentre hovered over Rusitu Valley in Chimanimani.
The MSD reported that the rainfall at Chisengu Estate in Chimanimani, at 407 mm, broke a 37-year record of 169mm.
The Mukandi area — also in Chimanimani — recorded 203mm, breaking the record of 141mm measured in March 1976.
Other areas that received intense rainfall include: Nyanga (145mm), both Rusape and Zaka (97mm), Buhera (91mm), Wedza (86mm), Marondera (65mm) and Chisumbanje (48mm).
Chimanimani East Member of Parliament Joshua Sacco yesterday that while the CPU had mobilised helicopters, the weather conditions made it impossible to deploy them.
The demand, he said, was extensive.
“We don’t have access roads in Chimanimani at the moment,” he said.
Authorities are actively working with partners including the Red Cross Society, MSF and Mercy Corps who have provided water treatment chemicals, washing soap, mosquito nets, boots, gloves, blankets and tents.
Two Command Centres were established at Mhandarume Centre for those rescued in Chimanimani and Christine School for victims from the Rusitu area.
Acting Manicaland CPU chairperson Mr Wilson Bore said in Chipinge 67 homes were destroyed, while 20 were destroyed in Mutare district.
Electricity power lines were damaged in Mutare Urban, cutting off power supply to some areas.
“More than 200 learners and their teachers at St Charles (Lwanga), 13 Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company employees who were staying at Mawenje Lodge in Chimanimani and six villagers were marooned and are still to be rescued as the rains are still pounding the area,” said Mr Bore.
“The ZCDC employees who were staying at Mawenje Lodge had to seek refuge in a nearby mountain after Haroni River burst its banks and destroyed the lodge.
“We have tried to have helicopters from Air Force of Zimbabwe to assist them, but it is very risky to venture into the area.
“Sub-aqua personnel from Chipinge have also failed to render any assistance because of the bad weather as the roads were also damaged.”
In a statement yesterday, Zanu-PF chief whip and the party’s secretary for youth affairs, Cde Pupurai Togarepi, called on Zimbabweans to join hands and help the stricken families.
“We have learnt with sadness and deep grief the passing away of individuals whose homes have been swept away by the devastating effects of Cyclone Idai and wish to convey our heartfelt condolences over loss of life,” said Togarepi.
“We as Zanu-PF parliamentarians have decided to contribute a minimum of $100 each towards helping our brothers and sisters in the affected. Considering the damage and trial of destruction our contributions are indeed a drop in the ocean, but a good start nonetheless as we help communities in need of assistance.
The ruling party’s MPs would be visiting the affected areas.
“Apart from cash donations legislators can also donate in kind, things like blankets, tents, drinking water and other items because the situation is desperate.
“We also call upon all Zimbabweans to contribute towards mitigating the devastating effects of this disaster in any form for that is the humane and African thing to do.”
Zanu-PF Manicaland provincial chairperson Cde Mike Madiro said there is need to intensify efforts to assist the victims.
“As Zanu-PF we are worried that the affected areas, Chimanimani and Chipinge, remain inaccessible as the cyclone has destroyed roads and bridges, thus slowing down rescue efforts. We want to urge Government to intensify efforts to rescue those who are stranded and find the missing as soon as possible to avoid more loss of lives,” said Cde Madiro.
He called on stakeholders to contribute towards assisting the affected families.
Cyclone Idai has since claimed more than 400 lives in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi.