U.S. sends disaster experts to Mozambique

By Emelia Sithole

MAPUTO, Feb 24 (Reuters) - The United States has rushed disaster experts to Mozambique to assess damage caused by devastating floods and a cyclone, which the government says will cost the impoverished country over $60 million.

South African radio said on Thursday the experts would inspect damage in the impoverished nation, where South African military helicopters were leading rescue operations as treacherous weather hindered some emergency flights.

Washington moved a day after the United Nations and the Mozambican government launched separate appeals for urgent international help for the flood-and-cyclone ravaged nation.

As U.N. agencies and charities scurried to get food, shelter and medicine to Mozambique, one of the world's poorest nations, the United Nations launched a high-profile worldwide appeal for $13 million in fresh funds.

The United Nations plans to divide that figure among five agencies, from the the World Health Organisation to the World Food Programme.

Clean water and food topped the wish list with everything from antibiotics to disinfectant, cleaning materials and jerry cans being flown in.


Kitchen kits and plastic sheeting were en route from South Africa, Europe and the United States as a new army of homeless hunkered down against disease.

Aid workers say cases of cholera, a water-borne disease, were on the rise and malaria and meningitis were also on the way for hundreds of thousands driven from their homes.

The government says more than 800,000 people have been affected, with the figure set to rise still higher.

Some 200,000 have been confirmed as homeless and that figure too was set to rise, aid workers warned.

Beira, Mozambique's second largest city is without power or domestic and international telecommunication links.

Cyclone Eline raged across Mozambique on Tuesday, capping two weeks of devastating floods. Authorities said 150 people have died since rains started in January.

The Indian Ocean cyclone has also affected South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia.

Britain said it had already given $1.23 million in aid.

But Mozambique's Foreign Minister Leonardo Simao told a news conference in Maputo on Wednesday his government was in urgent need of $63.5 million to cover damages and repair infrastructure such as roads and bridges washed away by floods.

In neighbouring Zimbabwe, the cyclone battered the eastern province of Manicaland on Wednesday displacing hundreds of people, destroying crops, roads and homes and leaving the provincial capital, Mutare, without electricity.

The disaster is ill-timed for cash-strapped Mozambique, which was trying to rebuild from 16 years of civil war which ended in 1992, and repay a foreign debt of $8.3 billion.

Mozambique is still paying out $1.4 million a week just to cover its international debts, debt relief campaigners said.

Weather forecasters said a second cyclone was building in the Indian Ocean and could strike Mozambique and ite neighbours.


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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