Bad weather prevented rescuers Tuesday from delivering desperately-needed food and medicine to thousands of survivors marooned on a Mozambican island five days after one of the most powerful cyclones ever to hit Africa.
World Food Programme (WFP) aid its helicopters could not take off in strong rain and wind to bring aid to Ibo, an island of some 13,000 people just off the Mozambican coast.
Nearby Quissanga island, with 50,000 inhabitants, did receive a welcome delivery of about three tonnes of high-energy biscuits, a tonne of other food, and 100 kilogrammes (220 pounds) of health and sanitary supplies to the stricken communities.
Two WFP helicopters managed to leave for Quissanga before heavy rains started, the UN body’s Deborah Nguyen told AFP in Pemba.
“But the second rotation due to reach Ibo was cancelled due to the weather. They (residents of Ibo) have not been reached (by WFP) since the cyclone,” she said, adding that about 7,000 people are in need of food aid on the island.
“The priority is getting aid to Ibo because it hasn’t been reached yet” since Cyclone Kenneth struck last Thursday night, Nguyen said earlier on the tarmac at Pemba airport next to a large cargo chopper being loaded with supplies.
Teams in white hard hats and green overalls earlier loaded dozens of boxes of high-calorie biscuits and medicines onto two large cargo helicopters.
“We hope to be able to deliver… to Ibo tomorrow weather permitting,” the Geneva-based WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel told AFP by phone.
Car access to many affected areas has been rendered impossible by roads and bridges being washed away. Further downpours are expected in coming days.
Ido and Quissanga suffered massive devastation, according to relief agencies working in the area.
Cyclone Kenneth killed at least 41 people and destroyed thousands of homes in Mozambique.
It washed away roads, submerged fields, and wrecked buildings just weeks after Cyclone Idai devastated the Mozambican city of Beira, 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) to the south.
Kenneth made landfall in Cabo Delgado province, packing winds up to 220 kilometres (137 miles) per hour — hitting a region that has not experienced a tropical cyclone in the era of satellites.
Further rains are predicted for the coming days, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Figures provided by Mozambique authorities to NGOs showed that about 200,000 people in Pemba city, the capital of Cabo Delgado, are in danger.
On Sunday night, a vast rubbish dump that towers over Chibuabuar neighbourhood gave way, sending mounds of trash crashing into the valley, demolishing five houses and pushing another metres downhill, killing at least four residents.
The National Institute of Disaster Management (INGC) said 39 people have been treated for injuries so far, while more than 23,000 are without shelter and nearly 35,000 homes were partly or wholly destroyed.
The cyclone, the strongest tropical storm ever to strike the country, hit districts that have already been suffering from deadly raids by a jihadist group over the past 18 months.
Fighters of the group commonly referred to by locals and officials as “Al-Shabaab”, although it has no known link to the notorious Somali jihadist group of the same name, have killed about 200 people and forced thousands from their homes.
Before smashing into Mozambique, the cyclone hit the Comoros islands, killing at least four people and damaging 75,000 homes, according to OCHA.
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