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Cyclone Idai batters Mozambique

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With heavy rain and winds of up to 170 kilometers per hour (105 mph), Tropical Cyclone Idai unleashed widespread damage and destruction Friday on the port city of Beira, leaving more than a dozen dead and cutting off communications and electricity.

After making landfall late Thursday, Idai felled pylons, destroyed houses and blew the roofs off seven schools. The airport was shut down after suffering damage to its control tower and runways. Flooding also swamped Beira's roads, and the hospital suspended surgeries due to the storm.

"There has been a lot of damage. Many homes have been left without roofs," said Alberto Mondlane, the provincial governor.

The power and communication outages left Beira's roughly 530,000 residents cut off.

Power outages also affected the provinces of Manica and parts of Inhambane.

Death toll in Sofala

State broadcaster Radio Mocambique said "preliminary information points to 19 deaths and more than 70 injured in Sofala province as a result of Cyclone Idai." Most of the deaths were located in Beira, the capital of Sofala.

Idai comes on the heels of recent flooding that has already caused death and destruction across parts of southeastern Africa. In Mozambique, Malawi and South Africa, flooding has killed 126.

Prior to Idai, the death toll in Mozambique alone due to flooding had already reached 66 people, with 111 injured and 17,000 displaced.

Major storm surge

The low lying city of Beira was the worst hit by Friday's cyclone, with Chinde to the north also taking a beating and communications with other villages along the coast severed by a 2-meter (6.5-foot) storm surge.

The World Food Program said it would deliver 20 tons of emergency food aid to stranded communities by boat and helicopter.

Read more: Climate change poses dire challenges for Bangladesh

1 million affected

Heavy rains have inundated the region over the past week, affecting more than 1 million people, according to officials.

Authorities in Malawi have opened emergency relief camps after President Peter Mutharika declared a national emergency.

Cyclone Eline smashed Mozambique in February 2000, compounding further floods, killing 350 and leaving 650,000 homeless.

cmb, ta/cmk (AFP/Reuters)

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