BAN's World GazetteerSouth Africa
Disaster relief organisation Mercy Air has dispatched AS350B2 helicopters from the port city of Beira in Mozambique to areas badly damaged by tropical cyclone Idai.
The cyclone's winds have reached speeds of almost 200 kmh and have been accompanied by torrential downpours. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), preliminary projections indicated that at least 1.7 million people were in the direct path of the cyclone in Mozambique and Zimbabwe, with a further 920,000 hit in Malawi and more than 1,000 people feared dead.
Mercy Air’s rotorcraft have been based in Beira, where 90 per cent of buildings have been severely affected; 24 hospitals in the region are destroyed and 900 homes have been swept away by the floods.
“As humanitarian aid workers are faced with major challenges trying to reach the flood victims due to washed away roads and bridges, the helicopters are the only way to reach them,” says Mercy Air’s helicopter programme manager Matthias Reuter. Pilot Joel Bartschi adds: “We are busy with daily assessment flights for the government and dropping WFP-provided high energy foods and drinking water to thousands of people on rooftops, water towers, trees and stadiums, where people are seeking higher ground.”