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Flood Aid From West Arrives in Mozambique

Disaster: Thousands of victims seek food and shelter at makeshift camps as relief flights deliver supplies and equipment.

March 05, 2000|From Associated Press

PALMEIRA, Mozambique — Thousands of Mozambique's hungry and thirsty flood victims straggled into makeshift camps Saturday after days of huddling on rooftops or clinging to tree branches.

As more supplies and equipment arrived from around the world--including the first of three U.S. planes carrying boats from Miami--survivors at the camps gulped down cornmeal soup and beans, the first food many had eaten in four or five days.

Authorities estimated that 1 million people in this southeastern African country urgently require food, medicine and shelter.

Aid workers expect the death toll from the disaster to soar into the thousands as flood waters in southern Mozambique recede and reveal the dead.

Cyclone Eline, which along with three weeks of torrential rain caused the flooding, was downgraded Friday to a tropical storm. On Saturday, the dazed and dirty survivors, stripped of all their possessions by the surging water, recounted their ordeals.

Alberto Mareleko spent five days in waist-deep water clinging with his two wives to a tree until a South African air force helicopter rescued them Friday.

While they held on for their lives, the bodies of six neighbors floated past, he said.

Mareleko, waiting in line to register at a camp near the village of Palmeira, said he had no idea what he would do next.

On Saturday, clean water was in short supply.

In one camp near Chokwe, there was not enough drinking water for the 3,500 refugees, the U.N. World Food Program said.

At the airport near Maputo, Mozambique's seaside capital, Charles Monteiro of the Spanish Red Cross was overseeing the unloading of six water purifiers that together can clean 4,160 gallons an hour.

Nearby on the airport tarmac, two other planes from Germany and Belgium were disgorging relief supplies, which smaller planes and helicopters ferried to outlying regions.

An Italian cargo plane landed in the central city of Beira with 40 tons of relief supplies, and the U.S. planeload of boats arrived in Maputo on Saturday.

Mozambique's National Disaster Coordination Center welcomed the aid but said more was needed.

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