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In Mozambique, cyclone survivors grow frantic amid shortage of food

As the death toll from a deadly tropical cyclone climbs to 550, Mozambique’s political situation is adding to the woes of its people. Survivors of the catastrophe are scrambling to find food and supplies, but there’s a sense more aid would be available if the country enjoyed stronger relationships with its neighbors. John Irvine of Independent Television News reports from Mozambique.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The death toll in the cyclone disaster on the African continent rose sharply today, to more than 550. The storm devastated Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

    John Irvine of Independent Television News is in Mozambique, where the desperation is growing.

  • John Irvine:

    Trying to restore order at the point of an AK-47, but the people wouldn't be repelled for long, driven on by hunger. They knew that at last the local council had brought food to this municipal building, and they fought to get their hands on it.

    For many here in Beira, it's been a long, starving week since the cyclone struck.

  • Man:

    No food. No food. No food.

  • John Irvine:

    At times, when they felt threatened, the soldiers tossed a sack of flour into the crowd, so instead of fighting them for it, the people could fight each other for it. There wasn't nearly enough to go around.

    As well as everything else, there's a political dimension to what's going on here. Mozambique's government doesn't enjoy much support in this area. And these people believe the inadequate response is both deliberate and vindictive.

    West of Beira, the land mass that has become a lake is roughly the size of Luxembourg, according to the most recent satellite imagery. This afternoon, ITV News was invited on board a government helicopter to the hard-hit town of Buzi, which is only accessible by air.

    It's clear that the damage done to buildings by the high winds is extensive, but a week on, it's the water that's the persistent problem, forcing hundreds of people to take to rooftops to survive.

    The government wanted us here to witness this, a visit by Mozambique's president. He could be pictured with some of his most desperate people. All went well with this photo opportunity, until people realized there was food supplies on board the presidential helicopter.

    The president claims he's doing all he can to respond to their desperation. The problem is that, one week on, all he can doesn't look like nearly enough.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Horrible.

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