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Death toll from Cyclone Idai could be more than 1,000, Mozambique’s president says

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WATCH: 1000 feared dead in Mozambique cyclone

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.”

WATCH: Death toll rises to 64 after Zimbabwe hit by cyclone

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Death toll rises to 64 after Zimbabwe hit by cyclone

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.

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Other officials in emergency services cautioned that while they expect the death toll to rise significantly, they have no way of knowing if it will reach the president’s estimate of 1,000.

The Red Cross said that 90 per cent of Beira, a city of 500,000, had been damaged or destroyed.

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Beira has been severely battered by the cyclone which cut off electricity, forced the airport to shut down and cut off road access to the rest of the country. Cyclone Idai first hit Beira last week and then moved inland to Zimbabwe and Malawi.

Beira has been severely battered by the cyclone which cut off electricity, forced the airport to shut down and closed road access to the city, said the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies on Monday.

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Cyclone Idai first hit Beira last week and then moved inland spreading heavy winds and rainfall to Zimbabwe and Malawi. More than 215 people have been killed by the storm according to official figures in the three countries, hundreds more are missing and more than 1.5 million people have been affected, according to the Red Cross and government officials.

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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 per cent of the area is completely destroyed,” said LeSueur.

With Beira’s airport closed, the team drove from Mozambique’s capital Maputo before taking a helicopter for the last part of the journey because roads into Beira have been flooded.

While the physical impact of Idai is beginning to emerge, the human impact is unclear.

In this photo taken on Friday, March 15, 2019 and provided by the International Red Cross, a car drives by a destroyed section of the road after Tropical Cyclone Idai, in Beira, Mozambique. 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.
In this photo taken on Friday, March 15, 2019 and provided by the International Red Cross, a car drives by a destroyed section of the road after Tropical Cyclone Idai, in Beira, Mozambique. 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. (Denis Onyodi/IFRC via AP)
This image made available by International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) on Monday March 18, 2019, shows an aerial view from a helicopter of flooding in Beira, Mozambique. The Red Cross says that as much as 90 percent of Mozambique's central port city of Beira has been damaged or destroyed by tropical Cyclone Idai. (.
This image made available by International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) on Monday March 18, 2019, shows an aerial view from a helicopter of flooding in Beira, Mozambique. The Red Cross says that as much as 90 percent of Mozambique's central port city of Beira has been damaged or destroyed by tropical Cyclone Idai. (. Caroline Haga/International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies / IFRC via AP
A destroyed car is seen amid the destruction provoked by the passage of the cyclone Idai in Beira, Mozambique, on March 17, 2019.
A destroyed car is seen amid the destruction provoked by the passage of the cyclone Idai in Beira, Mozambique, on March 17, 2019. ADRIEN BARBIER/AFP/Getty Images
Farmers check their crop after the area was hit by cyclone Idai in Chimanimani, Manicaland Province, Zimbabwe, March 17, 2019. At least 31 people have been confirmed dead while dozens of others are still missing as tropical cyclone Idai wreaks havoc in southeastern Zimbabwe.
Farmers check their crop after the area was hit by cyclone Idai in Chimanimani, Manicaland Province, Zimbabwe, March 17, 2019. At least 31 people have been confirmed dead while dozens of others are still missing as tropical cyclone Idai wreaks havoc in southeastern Zimbabwe. Xinhua/Shaun Jusa

“Almost everything is destroyed. Communication lines have been completely cut and roads have been destroyed. Some affected communities are not accessible,” said LeSueur.

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“Beira has been severely battered. But we are also hearing that the situation outside the city could be even worse. Yesterday (Sunday), a large dam burst and cut off the last road to the city.”

The storm hit Beira late Thursday and moved westward into Zimbabwe and Malawi, affecting thousands more, particularly in areas bordering Mozambique.

At least 126 people had died in Mozambique and Malawi, according to the Red Cross. In Zimbabwe, 89 people have died from the floods, the country’s information ministry said Monday.

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Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi and Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa both returned from foreign trips to attend to the emergencies caused by the storm.

Zimbabwe’s president returned home from the United Arab Emirates “to make sure he is involved directly with the national response by way of relief to victims of Cyclone Idai,” the information ministry said. The Zimbabwean government declared a state of national disaster.

U.N. agencies and the Red Cross are helping with rescue efforts that include delivering food supplies and medicines by helicopter in the impoverished countries.