Cyclone Idai and Floods Cause Massive Destruction, Deaths in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi

Cyclone Idai and Floods Cause Massive Destruction, Deaths in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi

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MAPUTO (March 18, 2019) – Countries in southern Africa have been hit by what is possibly the deadliest cyclone ever recorded in the area. Cyclone Idai has caused at least 150 deaths and affected more than 1.5 million people. Officials expect the death toll to rise, with Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi saying Monday there could be more than 1,000 deaths, according to multiple media reports. The cyclone hit Mozambique first on Thursday night, with the city of Beira and its surrounding villages receiving the heaviest blow. It continued from there to Zimbabwe and Malawi. There is an ongoing risk that others will lose their lives to flooding in the cyclone-affected region, with rainfall expected to continue.

“Roads to the areas hit by the cyclone have been completely blocked by fallen trees and rubble. The infrastructure has been completely destroyed,” says Marc Nosbach, CARE’s country director in Mozambique. “Initial reports indicate significant damage to houses and buildings, including to health facilities and schools. There is a complete power outage since Thursday’s rainfall. Telephone and internet communications are down.”

In Zimbabwe, the storm caused high winds and heavy precipitation in the east of the country, causing rivers to overflow. At least 31 deaths have been reported so far and more than 100 people are still missing. “There has been flash flooding, landslides and destruction of livelihoods and properties,” says Jan Schollaert, CARE’s country director in Zimbabwe. “CARE is assessing the situation to respond based on identified needs and in coordination with other aid agencies, but we know for sure that the needs of the affected people will be massive.”

At least 56 people in Malawi died as a result of flash floods preceding the cyclone. “The rainfall has calmed down for now but the skies are grey and cloudy,” says Matthew Pickard, CARE’s country director in Malawi. “Floods caused significant destruction last week. With the cyclone leading to more rainfall, the already inundated areas may face even greater destruction and losses. We are working with the local authorities to support the affected communities and have deployed staff to assess the needs and gather the necessary data, to ensure our response is effective and addresses people’s needs.” 

In Mozambique, the heavy rains will raise the water levels in the rivers nearby the city of Beira and potentially cause floods that will impact a wider area in Manica and Sofala Provinces. At least 66 people in Mozambique have died because of the cyclone, and the number is expected to increase in the coming few days.

“Our home has been destroyed by the cyclone. We lost everything. Nothing is left,” says Julia, 37-year-old mother of three who fled with her children from their village to the city of Beira. “We don’t have food, clothes, blankets for the night. I have experienced storms in previous years. But this was the first year I have experienced anything like this.”

CARE is working with other organizations and local authorities in Mozambique to minimize the impact of the cyclone with agricultural support through the provision of seeds and livestock. Aid organizations will also provide water purification tablets, menstrual hygiene items, jerry cans and soap, emergency latrines and hygiene promotion support to prevent water contamination and water-borne diseases.

CARE places a special emphasis in all of its programming on women and girls, who are normally the worst affected by disasters and who often prioritize their families’ needs ahead of their own. However, as the impact of the cyclone is expected to worsen, and in order for aid organizations, including CARE, to help more people effectively and reach the most vulnerable, at least US$ 16,920,000 is needed in order to provide the needed support to affected communities.

About CARE:

Founded in 1945 with the creation of the CARE Package®, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE places special focus on working alongside women and girls because, equipped with the proper resources, they have the power to lift whole families and entire communities out of poverty. That’s why women and girls are at the heart of CARE’s community-based efforts to improve education and health, create economic opportunity, respond to emergencies and confront hunger. Last year CARE worked in 93 countries and reached more than 63 million people around the world. Learn more at

Media Contacts: 

Nicole Harris, 404-735-0871

Mahmoud Shabeeb, +962-79-146-39-03 (based in Amman, Jordan)



In the village of Inhamizua in Mozambique, the secondary school was used as an emergency shelter for local residents. Approximately 300 people had sought shelter in the school, but several of the school buildings were damaged during the Cyclone Idai as it made landfall along the Central Coast of Mozambique, generating winds of over 200kph and torrential rain. The storm victims recounted stories of losing everything and not knowing what was next. Photo: Josh Estey/CARE