Cyclone Idai kills at least 31 as it hits eastern Zimbabwe

Cyclone Idai has ripped through Malawi Mozambique and Zimbabwe leaving an estimated 140 people dead and hundreds more missing

"So far a total of 71 people are reported missing", said the DCP.

Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi have been hit by a vicious cyclone that has killed almost 150 people, left hundreds more missing and stranded tens of thousands who are cut off from roads and telephones in mainly poor, rural areas.

Tropical cyclone Idai wrought havoc in eastern Zimbabwe after first battering neighbouring Mozambique - where it killed at least 19 people and left half a million people in Beira, one of the largest cities, cut off from the world.

"The information we have so far is that over 100 people are missing", said Joshua Sacco, an MP in Chimanimani district.

Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change spokesman Jacob Mafume tweeted that a "serious humanitarian crisis (is) unfolding" in eastern Zimbabwe districts.

Power has been cut off and key bridges flooded on the Manicaland province which borders Mozambique.

Cyclone Idai made landfall on the night of March 14, bringing heavy rains and winds to four Mozambique provinces of Zambezia, Manica, Sofala and Inhambane.

Thousands have been forced to leave behind their belongings and flee to higher ground as U.N. agencies and the Red Cross attempt to deliver food and medicine

Malawi has also been affected by the natural disaster, where 56 lives were claimed by aggressively heavy rains earlier this week. "They are part of the missing".

Most of the deaths were in Chimanimani East, Zimbabwe's information ministry announced on Twitter.

In February 2000, Cyclone Eline hit Mozambique when it was already devastated by its worst floods in three decades. The declaration, which also covers areas likely to be affected by the cyclone, allows the Civil Protection Unit (CPU) to support communities and provide relief.

"The situation is dire but we don't know the exact particulars", said Jamie LeSueur, the Red Cross's roving emergency operations manager for Africa, who was making the 1,200-kilometre (745-mile) trip from Maputo to Beira by road after flights were cancelled and the airport closed.

When the cyclone hit Mozambique, authorities there were forced to close the worldwide airport in the port city of Beira after the air traffic control tower, the navigation systems and the runways were damaged by the storm.

The storm damaged a Mozambican transmission line to South Africa, cutting supplies by 900 MW and worsening an electricity shortage in SA.

South Africa's military has sent in aircraft and 10 medical personnel to help in Mozambique and Malawi, it said in a statement on Saturday.

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