In remarks at a news conference on Wednesday, Chissano was quoted as saying: "The floods affected about two million people nationwide of whom about 250,000 are displaced or homeless." At least 212 people had lost their lives and it was likely this toll could reach the thousands.
He said the cost to the economy was still being assessed, but that initial estimates for the repair of roads and bridges were running into US $89 million, with electricity infrastructure repairs to cost in the region of US $10 million.
Chissano also said the international response had been "somewhat late": "Although the international community did not have the images to feel and understand the size of the tragedy," he said "we are very happy now that people are sympathising with us."
In a separate interview with the BBC, he also said he did not know how the country could make a fresh start if it still faced large foreign debt repayments. A number of countries like Britain, Portugal and the United States have already cancelled their bilateral debts with Mozambique.
A new WFP appeal
Meanwhile, WFP the lead agency managing the international relief effort told IRIN on Wednesday that it was preparing a new appeal for Mozambique in which it would be asking the international community for funds in the region of US $27 million. Its initial appeal has already drawn in excess of US $9 million.
"WFP is hoping to launch this appeal by the end of the week and that is roughly the figure we are looking at," spokesman Jeffrey Rowland said. Earlier, the agency's Deputy Executive Director, Namanga Ngongi, said the agency would also seek a further US $3 million to extend the use of South African helicopters by another 15 days until the end the month. He also said WFP required a further US $4 million to finance road repairs.
He estimated that roughly a quarter of the country's farmlands had been damaged in the flooding brought on last month by cyclone Eline, and last week by cyclone Gloria which swept across the Mozambique Channel from Madagascar.
Search and rescue missions almost complete
Using 41 helicopters and 78 boats, WFP said in a separate statement on Wednesday that search and rescue missions were now almost complete, and that in coordination with the military, it was now overseeing the distribution and delivery of food and other aid to 250,000 people in 65 reception centres around the country.
"Road transport along the country's main north-south highway and other secondary roads has been cut off at several points with bridges down and railways damaged," the statement said. "Until water levels fully recede and infrastructure can be repaired, WFP will have to depend on helicopters and boats to get food to the reception sites."
The agency said it was setting up logistics bases in Maputo in the south, and in Sofala in central Mozambique. Helicopters had been flying food from the two centres to the flooded Limpopo valley in southern Mozambique, and to the Save river valley further north.
Communications a major problem
WFP said that "until now, a lack of communications systems has been a severe handicap" to the international relief effort. It said a technical team had arrived at the weekend to coordinate a telecommunications network to guarantee telephone and computer communications for all UN staff involved in the emergency. The agency said it currently had four mobile telecommunications centres in Mozambique.
Local authorities have repaired the main highway linking the second city of Beira to the Save valley, and on Wednesday WFP dispatched the first 15 mt-lorries with emergency food to the area.
Since the beginning of the operation WFP said it had delivered 1,464 mt of food by air and road, and that it was currently delivering up to 125 mt of food daily to flood victims throughout the country.
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