Aid agencies rushed Tuesday to deliver emergency relief to thousands of survivors marooned on two Mozambican islands after one of the most powerful cyclones ever to hit Africa smashed into the country’s north.
Teams in white hard hats and green overalls loaded dozens of boxes of high-calorie biscuits and medicines onto two large cargo helicopters — which can carry three tonnes each — one destined for Ibo Island and the other for Quissanga.
“The priority is getting aid to Ibo because it hasn’t been reached yet,” Deborah Nguyen, spokeswoman for World Food Programme (WFP) said on the tarmac at Pemba airport next to a large white Mil Mi-8 cargo chopper being loaded.
Heavy rain delayed liftoff, and high winds pummelling the area raised fears the relief efforts could be further delayed.
But WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel later told reporters in Geneva that the first flight had taken off for Quissanga with 2.88 metric tonnes of high-energy biscuits, a tone of food from the government and 100 kilogrammes of health and sanitary supplies.
The islands of Quissanga (50 000 inhabitants) and Ibo (13 000), just off the coast of Mozambique, suffered massive devastation, according to relief agencies working in the area.
Cyclone Kenneth killed at least 38 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 to the south.
Kenneth made landfall late Thursday in Cabo Delgado province, packing wind gusts of up to 220 kilometres per hour — hitting a region that has not experienced a tropical cyclone since the satellite era.
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 show that about 200 000 people in Pemba city, the capital of Cabo Delgado, are in danger.
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.
Before smashing into Mozambique, the cyclone hit the Comoros islands, killing at least four people and damaging 75 000 homes, according to OCHA.
© Agence France-Presse