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After devastating cyclone, Mozambique fears hunger, disease

The catastrophe is still growing for hundreds of thousands of people across southern Africa. The death toll from last week’s tropical cyclone has topped 300 in Mozambique and two neighboring countries, where floodwaters have stranded some survivors in trees and on rooftops. Survivors are facing hunger, disease and more potential flooding. Nick Schifrin reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The catastrophe is still growing tonight for hundreds of thousands of people across Southern Africa. The death toll from last week's tropical cyclone has topped 300 in Mozambique and two neighboring states, and survivors now face hunger and possibly disease.

    Nick Schifrin has the latest.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Stranded for days above rising floodwaters, help finally arrives. But even those who've been rescued have lost everything.

    It's been five days since a tropical cyclone tore through Mozambique's port city of Beira, before heading into Malawi and Zimbabwe. Hundreds are still trapped or missing. And as rains continue, these rescues grow more desperate. The storm cut off virtually all access to Eastern Mozambique, submerging whole villages in miles of floodwaters and washing out bridges and roads.

    Survivors are airlifted to Beira, where aid is just starting to arrive. With limited supplies, aid workers attend to the critically injured, wrap rescued children in blankets, and hand out clean water.

    The storm's affected more than 2.6 million people in this corner of Southern Africa. More than 400,000 people have been displaced in Mozambique alone, many forced to walk miles to higher ground; 125 miles inland, displaced mothers like Guida Antonio are running out of supplies in a makeshift shelter in Chimoio. Antonio has no food for herself, and needs to breast-feed her one-week-old baby.

  • Guida Antonio (through translator):

    Yesterday, I saw that food was running out. I went and asked, and they told me that food had run out. Until now, I have had none.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Sandra Juliao, a mother of three, says she needs to go look for more supplies, but can't leave her children.

  •  Sandra Juliao (through translator):

    Our house was destroyed, and I can't cope. There's nothing here. The kids didn't have lunch so they are hungry.

  • Marc Nosbach:

    There will be nothing left of their houses or their property. They were lucky to get away with their lives.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Marc Nosbach is with CARE International in Maputo, Mozambique.

  • Marc Nosbach:

    But it is a really desperate situation. And we have heard accounts of family members lost other family members in front of their eyes, as the floodwaters were approaching.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    And, as those floodwaters remain, Nosbach says there is a fear a disease outbreak could trigger a second disaster.

  • Marc Nosbach:

    There will be a significant risk of cholera, but also malaria, especially if the standing waters in the region continues.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Rik Goverde is with Save the Children.

  • Rik Goverde:

    These people have lost everything they had. And it's not always a lot they have. It's a poor area. But their children went to school. They cooked with kitchen supplies, with pots, with pans, simple things like that. They had houses or shelters where they lived. And that is gone.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    While aid has been slow to arrive, more is on the way. And for the millions affected, it can't come soon enough. There's more rain forecast. And upriver dams are close to breaking. And that could lead to even more flooding.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin.

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