MAPUTO, March 18 (CGTN) -- The death toll from Cyclone Idai has risen to 215, as the storm ravages parts of Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi, with hundreds more missing.
Mozambique's President Filipe Nyusi says that more than 1,000 may have by killed by Cyclone Idai, which many say is the worst in more than 20 years.
Speaking to state Radio Mozambique, Nyusi said Monday that although the official death count is currently 84, he believes the toll will be more than 1,000.
“It appears that we can register more than 1,000 deaths,” said the president, adding that more than 100,000 people are at risk.
“The waters of the Pungue and Buzi rivers overflowed, making whole villages disappear and isolating communities, and bodies are floating,” said Nyusi. “It is a real disaster of great proportions.”
Nyusi spoke after flying by helicopter over the central port city of Beira and the rural Manica and Sofala provinces in which he saw widespread flooding and devastation.
Other officials in emergency services also cautioned that while they expect the death toll to rise significantly.
The Red Cross said that 90 percent of the Mozambican city of Beira, a city of 500,000, had been damaged or destroyed.
Cyclone Idai first hit Beira last week and then moved inland spreading heavy winds and rainfall to Zimbabwe and Malawi.
1.5 million people have been affected, according to the Red Cross and government officials.
The scale of the damage to Beira is “massive and horrifying,” said Jamie LeSueur, who led a Red Cross aerial assessment of the city. The team had to view the city by helicopter because roads were flooded, he said.
“The situation is terrible. The scale of devastation is enormous. It seems that 90 percent of the area is completely destroyed,” said LeSueur.
Mozambique's President Filipe Nyusi and Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa both returned from foreign trips to attend to the emergencies caused by the storm.
U.N. agencies and the Red Cross are helping with rescue efforts that include delivering food supplies and medicines by helicopter, however destruction from the storm has impeded emergency response teams in many areas.