At least 36 people have been killed and about 70,000 displaced by flooding in Mozambique, according to figures released by the UN, as the African nation braces for renewed storms.
“A total of 26 persons have died in [the worst affected southern province of] Gaza alone, with the nationwide death toll at 36,” the UN in Mozambique said in a statement on Saturday.
The number of displaced people now stands at 67,995 while nearly 85,000 have been affected by the raging waters in recent days, the UN said.
The UN urged donors to urgently make more funds available “to help deal with this emergency” in the impoverished nation.
A reporter for the AFP news agency on the scene saw thousands of residents who had fled their homes stuck on road sides leading out of devastated towns, surviving on scarce aid and in some cases forced to eat grasshoppers.
In the tourist coastal city of Xai-Xai, spared until Friday, up to eight metres of water was expected to hit.
“The water is coming into the city. It is just starting. Some roads in the lower part of town are under water,” said Joao Carlos, government spokesperson.
Severe flooding in Xai-Xai would sever the main road connection between the north and south of the country.
“Private and commercial services have been evacuated from the lower parts of the city to higher areas,” said Sylvia Paolo, police spokeswoman.
Humanitarian workers are now racing to provide food and shelter before cholera, malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea grip those left homeless by the floods.
Agencies are also rushing to supply three mobile hospital tents, 15,000 mosquito nets and various other provisions.
According to the National Water Directorate, nine rivers in five basins were above alert levels, including the Zambezi and the Limpopo.
In the capital Maputo several bridges, roads and schools were seriously damaged.
Meanwhile, severe flooding continued to spread across the south of the country, with international agencies and neighbouring South Africa scrambling to ease the humanitarian disaster.
The floods are a result of week-long torrential rains in South Africa and Zimbabwe that swelled the Limpopo river forcing an orange alert on January 12, when the toll began.
But the full impact of the rains were only now being felt.
Initial evacuations of around 30,000 people in the southern region who did not hear or ignored flood warnings were under way.
South Africa, where the flood waters have killed at least 12 people in the past week, dispatched two military helicopters and divers on Friday to assist with the evacuations.
A South African Hercules C-130 military transport plane was also due to take off late on Friday with a contingent of doctors, nurses and social workers to attend to the flood victims.
Towns such as Chokwe in the province of Gaza were submerged, with thousands of homes destroyed and key services such as banks, shops, schools and hospitals affected.
The price tag from the flood devastation in the capital alone is expected to be around $30m, according to UN agencies.
The deluge also wreaked havoc in South Africa where some 15,000 crocodiles escaped after flood gates were opened at a breeding farm in the Limpopo area.