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Cyclone Hits Mozambique

February 22, 2000

MAPUTO, Mozambique (AP) _ Cyclone Eline ripped roofs off houses, cut water and power supplies and drenched an already flood-stricken Mozambique on Tuesday with torrential rain that sent swollen rivers racing through villages.

The cyclone hit as the impoverished former Portuguese colony was mopping up from its heaviest flooding in half a century _ a disaster the United Nations estimated killed 67 people and displaced 211,000, mainly in the southern provinces of Gaza and Maputo.

Disaster relief officials had no reports of casualties late Tuesday afternoon from the cyclone, which was heading west toward Zimbabwe.

Three people in Beira, the country’s second-largest city, were electrocuted when power cables fell into the water, local television said. Resident Lizi Cristina said she and her husband, an electrician, had been called to work because of the fatal accident.

A local radio station reported that sparsely populated fishing villages near Inhambane, a coastal town 300 miles north of Maputo near where the storm surged ashore, had been washed away.

Even before the cyclone brought more rain and caused more damage, U.N. aid workers said they were struggling to provide food and water for those stranded or left destitute by the torrential rains two weeks ago that washed away roads, houses, bridges and agricultural land.

Eline moved inland Tuesday between Inhambane and Beira, 620 miles north of the capital, Maputo.

Ahead of the cyclone, wild storms had swept through Beira overnight Monday, cutting off power to some areas, said Agostinho Alberto, a Red Cross worker in the city.

In Inhambane and tiny villages along the coast, winds tore the roofs off brick houses and blew apart some of the makeshift mud and straw dwellings that many of Mozambique’s desperately poor call home.

``In some places people were sleeping under tables,″ said Arlindo da Cruz, who lives in Inhambane. ``Many people are without food.″

Rosalia Foquico, another Inhambane resident, said rivers were rushing through the streets of the town.

Maurice Muchinda, a U.N. disaster management official, said it was too early to assess the damage. ``We don’t have any information on the impact,″ he said.

The World Food Program, meanwhile, is using four helicopters donated by South Africa to bring aid to some of those affected by the floods, U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said in New York. Each of the helicopters can carry two tons of food, including corn, flour, beans, sugar and oil. A humanitarian appeal for $13 million is expected to be launched Wednesday.

As Eline headed west toward Zimbabwe, state-run radio there warned of flooding and possible landslides in hilly areas, telling motorists caught in the storm to pull off the road, shut all the windows and stay in their vehicles.

By late Tuesday afternoon, heavy rains driven by high winds drenched Zimbabwe’s eastern border region. Several houses reportedly were destroyed.

``The worst is still to come and people should be vigilant,″ said Leonard Unganayi of the country’s meteorological department.

Authorities fear Eline will force the swollen Limpopo River, which forms the border between Zimbabwe and South Africa, to burst its banks and flood vast areas.

The recent torrential rains have left about 22,000 people homeless in Zimbabwe. The landlocked country has not been hit by a cyclone in several years and there are doubts about the readiness of its emergency services because of a gasoline and diesel shortage caused by a chronic foreign exchange crisis.

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