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Zimbabwe Declares Two Days of Mourning Over Cyclone Idai

Cyclone Idai
Cyclone Idai

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa has declared two days of mourning this coming weekend, in observance of the lives lost and damage caused by Tropical Cyclone Idai.

"President Mnangagwa has declared this Saturday and Sunday (23 & 24 March 2019) National Mourning Days," the Zimbabwe Ministry of Information tweeted.

A day after Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique, President Mnangagwa declared a State of Disaster for the areas affected.

The Zimbabwe information ministry issued a notice Thursday, setting the total number of people killed by the cyclone at 139, with the highest number of casualties coming from Chimanimani and Chipinge in the eastern province of Manicaland.

The ministry also reported that 189 people were missing, 144 injured and 136 marooned.

The United Nations World Food Program (WFP), which is co-ordinating food drops, said 200,000 Zimbabweans would need urgent food aid for three months.

"Some 90 percent - and that is new - some 90 percent of the hardest hit district of Chimanimani has been significantly damaged," spokesman Herve Verhoosel of the World Food Program told journalists.

"Assessment finding indicate that approximately 200,000 people require food assistance over the next three months in that region and those two numbers are new from today." said Verhoosel.

Cyclone Idai lashed Mozambique's Beira with winds of up to 170 km per hour (105 miles per hour) a week ago, then moved inland to Zimbabwe and Malawi, flattening buildings and putting the lives of millions at risk.

The cyclone's torrential rains caused the Buzi River and the Pungue River, whose mouths are in the Beira area, to flood their banks. The scale of the flooding is huge - the U.N. satellite agency says floodwaters covered 2,165 square km (835 square miles) on March 20.

The Christian charity Tearfund said the timing of the floods was disastrous, with harvesting due to start in coming weeks. Even before the floods, 5.3 million people had been experiencing food shortages, said its Zimbabwe director, Earnest Maswe.