clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
People from the isolated district of Buzi take shelter in the Samora M. Machel secondary school used as an evacuation center in Beira, Mozambique, on March 21, 2019, following the devastation caused by Cyclone Idai. 
Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images

Filed under:

Photos: what Mozambique’s unfolding flooding catastrophe looks like

Flooding following Cyclone Idai has left hundreds dead and more than 100,000 displaced in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi.

Brian Resnick is Vox’s science and health editor, and is the co-creator of Unexplainable, Vox's podcast about unanswered questions in science. Previously, Brian was a reporter at Vox and at National Journal.

A catastrophe is unfolding in the wake of Cyclone Idai, which hit the southern African countries of Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi on March 15.

In all, the storm is believed to have killed more than 750 people across the three countries, with the most deaths occurring in Mozambique, where the storm made landfall. More than 100,000 people are now living in shelters, and the coastal city of Beira, Mozambique, has been all but destroyed.

The storm brought intense, flooding rain and an estimated 13 feet of deadly storm surge to some coastal areas in Mozambique. The result of all that water: An “inland ocean” has formed near Beira. It’s a huge amount of water, measuring around 80 miles long by 15 miles wide.

The European Space Agency captured the extent of the flooding via satellite on March 19 (the flooded areas are in red). Floodwaters are beginning to recede, the Guardian reports, and as they do, we’re getting a clearer picture of the humanitarian crisis developing in the region.

The extent of flooding, depicted in red, around the port city of Beira, Mozambique, on March 19. This mission is also supplying imagery through the Copernicus Emergency Mapping Service to aid relief efforts.
European Space Agency

In Mozambique, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that 446 people have died (the numbers are likely to continue to rise). Some 1,500 are injured, and 110,000 people are living in shelters.

Additionally, more than 58,660 homes have been destroyed by the storm. Beira, a city with a population of 400,000, continues to be mostly without power, and it’s still very difficult to bring supplies into the city via roads. “Fuel trucks are stuck ... on their way to Beira as the road is inaccessible,” the UN reports.

Zimbabwe and Malawi are also reeling from the storm. In Zimbabwe, the UN reports, 154 people are dead and 187 are still missing. An additional 121,000 people in the Chimanimani district of Zimbabwe (where the storm hit) are believed to need urgent food aid.

In Malawi, as of Friday, at least 56 people were reported dead and 82,700 people were displaced. “We are working round the clock to save the lives of those who survived and are facing incredible hardship,” the UN’s World Food Programme says.

Girls collect artificial flowers from the rubble of a building destroyed by the cyclone Idai at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Beira, Mozambique.
Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images

More trouble may be coming. Where there’s flooding and poor sanitation, disease follows. The IFRC reports there are now cases of cholera — a bacterial infection that spreads when drinking water is tainted with feces — in Beira. “There are increasing reports of acute watery diarrhea in Beira, according to the Government,” the UN relays.

And “already, some cholera cases have been reported in Beira along with an increasing number of malaria infections among people trapped by the flooding,” the IFRC said in a statement.

As of Friday, there were also still people around Beira waiting on rooftops to be rescued. “They are alive, we are communicating with them, delivering food, but we need to rescue them and take them out,” Celso Ismael Correia, Mozambique’s minister of land, environment, and rural development, told reporters. “Our biggest fight is against the clock.” He says 15,000 people still need to be rescued.

You can help the victims of Cyclone Idai by donating to UNICEF, the International Medical Corps, Global Giving’s relief fund, Save the Children, the Red Cross, Catholic Relief Services, or Doctors Without Borders.

Over the past several days, photojournalists have been able to gain better access to the impacted areas. Here’s what the situation looks like.

Aerial view of the damaged areas of Beira, Mozambique, on March 24, 2019.
Gokhan Balci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
An aerial view of a neighborhood affected by Cyclone Idai on March 24, 2019, in Beira, Mozambique.
Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images
People from the town of Buzi unload at Beira Port in Mozambique after being rescued on March 22, 2019. Thousands of people are still stranded after after Cyclone Idai hit the country last week.
Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images
A flooded area outside of Beira, seen on March 21, 2019. The area was hit by unprecedented flooding following the passage of Cyclone Idai.
Max Bearak/The Washington Post via Getty Images
A flooded area outside of Beira.
Max Bearak/The Washington Post via Getty Images
A destroyed bar near the beach in Beira, on March 23, 2019
Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images
Rosa Tomas, 27, with her 1-year-old son Dionisio Eduardo, in front of their destroyed and mud-covered home in Buzi, Mozambique, on March 23, 2019.
Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images
A woman and children stand on a muddy street in Buzi, Mozambique, on March 23, 2019, after the area was hit by Cyclone Idai.
Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images
People collect metal sheets from a damaged supermarket to rebuild their destroyed houses following the devastation in Beira, on March 21, 2019.
Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images

A woman washes clothes in muddy waters at a boat landing place in Buzi, Mozambique, on March 23, 2019.
Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images
Children play on a container overturned by Cyclone Idai in Beira, Mozambique, March 21, 2019.
Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images
People from the isolated district of Buzi take shelter in the Samora M. Machel secondary school used as an evacuation center in Beira, on March 21, 2019.
Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images
People take part in collecting sacks of Chinese rice printed “China Aid” from a warehouse, which is surrounded by water after Cyclone Idai hit in Beira, Mozambique, on March 20, 2019.
Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images
The scene around sacks of Chinese rice.
Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images
People wait in line to buy breads in Beira, on March 24, 2019.
Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images
People stay in a shelter in Buzi, Mozambique, on March 23, 2019.
Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images
Water levels begin to drop in area flooded days earlier in Chipinge, Zimbabwe.
Tafadzwa Ufumeli/Getty Images
A rainbow appears in the sky in Buzi, Mozambique, on March 23, 2019.
Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images
Climate

Why is Biden blocking the cheapest, most popular EVs in the world?

Climate

Texas fires happen in the winter. Just never at this scale before.

Climate

This chart of ocean temperatures should really scare you

View all stories in Climate

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.