In Brief

Cyclone Idai a ‘massive disaster’ in Mozambique and Zimbabwe

Survivors cling to trees as water levels rise in southern Africa

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Cyclone Idai has caused a “massive disaster” in southern Africa affecting hundreds of thousands if not millions of people, says the United Nations.

The cyclone, which caused devastation in Mozambique before striking Zimbabwe and Malawi, has been described as “one of the worst weather-related disasters” in the southern hemisphere. 

Reports say the cyclone has destroyed almost everything in its path and caused devastating floods. It has killed and injured thousands of people and ruined crops. The Times says survivors are “clinging to trees and rooftops to escape rising waters”.

More than 2.6m people could be affected across the three countries. Mozambique’s President, Filipe Nyusi, said the death toll could reach 1,000. He called it “a humanitarian disaster of great proportion”.

The United Nations has allocated $20m (£15m) from its emergency response fund to help. Britain is sending up to £6m in aid for victims in Mozambique and Malawi, two of Africa’s poorest countries.

A spokeswoman for the World Meteorological Organisation, Claire Nullis, said: “What we are seeing emerging from our informal networks and from the official databases is if the worst fears are realised... it is one of the worst weather-related disasters in the southern hemisphere.”

Meanwhile, experts say the climate crisis is making deadly storms like this more severe.

Dr Friederike Otto, of Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute, told The Guardian: “There are three factors with storms like this: rainfall, storm surge and wind. Rainfall levels are on the increase because of climate change, and storm surges are more severe because of sea level rises.”

Paulo Ceppi, of the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London, agreed, saying: “There is a direct link between global warming and cyclone intensity.”

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