Mozambique pleas for aid as more cyclones approach

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As forecasters warn of more storms, Mozambique has appealled for international aid the wake of Cyclone Eline.

As forecasters warn of more storms, Mozambique has appealled for international aid the wake of Cyclone Eline.

President Jaoquim Chissano asked for boats, tents, food and blankets to help avert a dissaster in his country with thousands of people stranded or made homeless.

As the death toll caused by flooding and a cyclone began to climb, aid workers warned Wednesday of a pending humanitarian crisis as hundreds of thousands of people remained stranded without food and risked contracting malaria or cholera.

"It's definitely a major scale disaster," said Marielise Berg-Sonne, a Red Cross official who added that as many as 800,000 people are at risk from flood-related outbreaks of disease.

Cyclone Eline lashed Mozambique on Tuesday with winds that ripped off roofs and downed power lines and with rain that added to the misery of weeks of flooding from torrential rains that already had killed 67 people and displaced 211,000.

Vast tracts of land in southern Mozambique remained submerged under muddy brown water and were only accessible by air.

Despite several years of economic growth since a 15-year civil war ended in 1992, Mozambique remains one of the poorest countries in the world. The bulk of its 19 million people live in straw huts on less than a dollar a day, and have no access to even the most basic of services. The floods have made their situation even more dire as crops were swept away.

"Some people are saying we are back to the situation we were in after the war," said Berg-Sonne.

The death toll climbed with the cyclone, but authorities still do not have a reliable figure for the total. Two small fishing boats had sunk off the Beira coast, and their crews were likely to have drowned, Beira port authorities said. They did not know how many people were aboard the boats.

Television reports said two men and a woman were electrocuted by falling power cables in Beira on Tuesday.

The center of Eline skirted the main towns before crossing into Zimbabwe.

Residents of the village of Inhambane reported knee-high streams rushing through the streets.

On Wednesday, a bridge linking the capital Maputo to the town of Xai-Xai in the neighboring Inhambane province collapsed, further frustrating relief efforts.

Aid authorities said the situation still remained worst in the south where tens of thousands of people left homeless by the floods were seeking shelter on higher ground.

South African and French air force planes resumed mercy aid flights on Wednesday.

U.N. agencies said the floods put 300,000 people in need of food and water because they had lost or been cut off from their homes.

The South African Air Force has sent five helicopters and two airplanes to help distribute supplies, while the French air force has contributed a cargo plane.

The Mozambican government and U.N. agencies were due to launch an international appeal for millions of dollars in humanitarian aid on Wednesday.