JOHANNESBURG — The president of Mozambique said Monday that more than 1,000 people might have by killed by Cyclone Idai, which many say is the worst to hit the country in more than 20 years.
The country’s official death count as of Monday was 89, according to the information ministry, but President Filipe Nyusi, speaking on state Radio Mozambique, said he believed the toll would surpass 1,000.
“The waters of the Pungue and Buzi rivers overflowed, making whole villages disappear and isolating communities, and bodies are floating,” Mr. Nyusi said. “It is a real disaster of great proportions.”
Mr. Nyusi spoke after flying by helicopter over the central port city of Beira and the rural provinces of Manica and Sofala.
Officials in emergency services cautioned that while they expected the death toll to rise significantly, they had no way of knowing if it would reach the president’s estimate of 1,000.
The Red Cross said that 90 percent of Beira, a city of 500,000, had been damaged or destroyed.
Cyclone Idai first hit Beira late Thursday and then moved inland,
spreading heavy winds, rainfall and devastation to parts of Zimbabwe and Malawi.
In the three countries together, more than 215 people have been killed by the storm, according to official figures. Hundreds more are missing and more than 1.5 million people have been affected, according to the Red Cross and government officials.
The scale of the damage to Beira is “massive and horrifying,” said Jamie LeSueur, who led a Red Cross aerial assessment of the city. ”But we are also hearing that the situation outside the city could be even worse.”