Johannesburg, Mar 19 (AP/UNB) — More than 1,000 people were feared dead in Mozambique four days after a cyclone slammed into the country, submerging entire villages and leaving bodies floating in the floodwaters, the nation's president said.
"It is a real disaster of great proportions," President Filipe Nyusi said.
Cyclone Idai could prove to be the deadliest storm in generations to hit the impoverished southeast African country of 30 million people.
It struck Beira, an Indian Ocean port city of a half-million people, late Thursday and then moved inland to Zimbabwe and Malawi with strong winds and heavy rain. But it took days for the scope of the disaster to come into focus in Mozambique, which has a poor communication and transportation network and a corrupt and inefficient bureaucracy.
Speaking on state Radio Mozambique, Nyusi said that while the official death toll stood at 84, "It appears that we can register more than 1,000 deaths."
Emergency officials cautioned that while they expect the death toll to rise significantly, they have no way of knowing if it will reach the president's estimate.
More than 215 people were killed by the storm in the three countries, including more than 80 in Zimbabwe's eastern Chimanimani region and more than 50 in Malawi, according to official figures. Hundreds more were reported injured and missing, and nearly 1,000 homes were destroyed in eastern Zimbabwe alone.
Doctors Without Borders said rivers have broken their banks leaving many houses fully submerged and around 11,000 households displaced in Nsanje, in southern Malawi.
U.N. agencies and the Red Cross helped rush emergency food and medicine by helicopter to the stricken countries.
Mount Chiluvo in central Mozambique was badly hit by flooding. One resident said he heard a loud noise, like an explosion, and suddenly saw a river of mud rolling toward his home.
"I was indoors with my children, but when we looked we saw mud coming down the road towards the houses and we fled," Francisco Carlitos told Lusa, the Portuguese News Agency. The family lost their home and possessions but safely reached higher ground.
The country's president, who cut short a visit to neighboring Swaziland over the weekend because of the disaster, spoke after flying by helicopter over Beira and two rural provinces, where he reported widespread devastation.
"The waters of the Pungue and Buzi rivers overflowed, making whole villages disappear and isolating communities, and bodies are floating," Nyusi said.
The United Nation's humanitarian office said the government issued flood warnings and said heavy rains were forecast for the next 24 hours, including in areas already hit hard by Idai.
The Red Cross said 90 percent of Beira was damaged or destroyed. The cyclone knocked out electricity, shut down the airport and cut off access to the city by road.
U.N. officials cited reports that Beira Central Hospital's emergency room was flooded and without power, and that much of the building's roof had collapsed. Doctors Without Borders said it had completely ceased operations in Beira hospital, local health centers and throughout the community.
The destruction in Beira is "massive and horrifying," said Jamie LeSueur, who led a Red Cross team that had to assess the damage by helicopter because of the flooded-out roads.
The U.N. also warned of devastation outside Beira, in particular of livestock and crops.
"As this damage is occurring just before the main harvest season, it could exacerbate food insecurity in the region," the U.N. humanitarian office known as OCHA said.
Mozambique is a long, narrow country with a 2,400-kilometer (1,500-mile) coastline along the Indian Ocean. It is prone to cyclones and tropical storms this time of year.
In 2000, Mozambique was hit by severe flooding caused by weeks of heavy rain, a disaster made much worse when a cyclone hit. Approximately 700 people were killed in what was regarded as the worst flooding in 50 years.
Mozambique won independence from Portugal in 1975 and then was plagued by a long-running civil war that ended in 1992. Its economy is dominated by agriculture, and its exports include prawns, cotton, cashews, sugar, coconuts and tropical hardwood timber.
More recently it has been exporting aluminum and electric power, and deposits of natural gas were discovered in the country's north.
Lagos, Mar 14 (AP/UNB) — Emergency crews sifted through debris as night fell on frantic efforts to rescue scores of school children and others feared trapped inside a three-story building that collapsed Wednesday in Nigeria's densely populated commercial capital, Lagos. At least eight people were confirmed dead and 37 others were rescued alive.
Anguished families crowded around the flattened remains of the building, which housed an elementary school, holding out hope that more children would still be found alive in the wreckage.
Scenes of jubilation erupted earlier in the day when a man was brought out alive. But the mood shifted dramatically an hour later when another man was brought out dead. The rescue of a woman carried to an ambulance on a stretcher was greeted with cries of, "She's not dead!" in the local Yoruba language.
The evening call to prayer could be heard as hundreds anxiously waited in the city's Ita Faji neighborhood trying to help in rescue efforts. Using flashlights, some people pulled what looked like clothing from the ruins. In the crowd, a baby cried.
As many as 100 children had been in the primary school on the building's top floors, witnesses said.
"It touches one to lose precious lives in any kind of mishap, particularly those so young and tender," Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said.
Earlier, Associated Press video showed rescuers in yellow vests carrying dust-covered, stunned-looking children from the rubble, to cheers from hundreds who had rushed to the scene. But the crowd quieted as others were pulled out slung over rescuers' shoulders, unmoving.
The children were hurried to ambulances. One man pressed his hands to a passing survivor's head in blessing.
More equipment was brought in as nightfall approached. National Emergency Management Agency spokesman Ibrahim Farinloye said 37 people had been pulled out alive, while eight bodies were recovered from the ruins. An unknown number remained missing.
It was not immediately clear why the building collapsed, but such disasters are all too common in Nigeria, where new construction often goes up without regulatory oversight and floors are added to already unstable buildings.
Lagos state Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode said the building, which had been marked for demolition, was classified as residential and the school was operating illegally on the top two floors.
He promised a full investigation once rescue operations were concluded and vowed that those responsible would be prosecuted.
"I want to commiserate with the families of those that lost their lives in this collapsed building," the governor said in a post on his Facebook page that also urged onlookers to "give the rescue workers the chance to save more lives."
The children's rights group Plan International Nigeria called on the Lagos state government to "launch an inquiry into the incident, and ensure that all persons found culpable for dereliction of duties are punished."
"This incident has further highlighted the urgent need ... to take urgent action on issues of safety in schools across the country," country director Hussaini Abdu said.
Ambode, the state governor, said his deputy was visiting hospitals and that the government would cover the hospital bills of survivors. "All we are interested in now is to save more lives and also see how those that have been rescued are put in proper place and proper care," he said.
Earlier in the day, anxious onlookers stood in narrow streets and on rooftops of rusted, corrugated metal, watching the rescue efforts. With emotions high, a number of shirtless men jumped in to offer assistance, hacksaws and mallets in hand. Some were barefoot. Some were bare-handed. One held a water bottle in his teeth.
The collapse came as Buhari, newly elected to a second term as president, tries to improve groaning, inefficient infrastructure in Africa's most populous nation.
In a recent report, the International Monetary Fund noted the state of the country's crumbling infrastructure.
"Nigeria's infrastructure is generally less than half the size than in the average sub-Saharan Africa country and only a fraction of that in emerging market economies," the report said. "The perceived quality of the infrastructure is low."
Sao Paulo, Mar 13 (AP/UNB) — Two young men, wearing hoods and carrying firearms and other weapons, opened fire at a school in southern Brazil on Wednesday, killing eight people before taking their own lives, authorities said.
The dead included two teachers and six students, and several other people had been hospitalized after sustaining injuries, according to Gov. Joao Doria, speaking a few blocks from the public school in Suzano, a suburb of Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city.
The age of the attackers was estimated to be between 20 and 25 years old, and authorities don't believe they were former students, the governor said.
Doria said the school had been evacuated and police were inspecting possible explosives left by the shooters.
"The school is on lockdown," he said.
Latin America's most populous nation has the largest number of annual homicides in the world, but school shootings are rare.
Brazil's new President Jair Bolsonaro recently announced that gun ownership controls would be loosened.
Hejere, Mar 13 (AP/UNB) — The black box from the Boeing jet that crashed and killed all 157 people on board will be sent overseas for analysis but no country has been chosen, an Ethiopian Airlines spokesman said Wednesday, as much of the world grounded or barred the plane model and grieving families arrived at the disaster site.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Asrat Begashaw said the airline has "a range of options" for the data and voice records of the flight's last moments. "What we can say is we don't have the capability to probe it here in Ethiopia," he said. An airline official has said one recorder was partially damaged.
The Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft crashed six minutes after takeoff Sunday, killing all 157 people on board. The disaster is the second with a Max 8 plane in just five months.
While some aviation experts have warned against drawing conclusions until more information on the latest crash emerges, much of the world, including the entire European Union, has grounded the Boeing jetliner or banned it from their airspace. Ethiopian Airlines, widely seen as Africa's best-managed airline, grounded its remaining four 737 Max 8s.
That leaves the United States as one of the few remaining operators of the plane.
"Similar causes may have contributed to both events," European regulators said, referring to the Lion Air crash in Indonesia that killed 189 people last year.
Others took action on Wednesday. Lebanon and Kosovo barred the Boeing 737 Max 8 from their airspace, and Norwegian Air Shuttles said it would seek compensation from Boeing after grounding its fleet. Egypt banned the operation of the aircraft. Thailand ordered budget airline Thai Lion Air to suspend flying the planes for risk assessments. Lion Air confirmed reports it has put on hold the scheduled delivery of four of the jets.
The U.S.-based Boeing has said it has no reason to pull the popular aircraft from the skies and does not intend to issue new recommendations about the aircraft to customers.
Boeing's CEO Dennis Muilenburg also spoke with President Donald Trump and reiterated that the 737 Max 8 is safe, the company said. Its technical team, meanwhile, joined American, Israeli, Kenyan and other aviation experts in the investigation led by Ethiopian authorities.
The Federal Aviation Administration also backed the jet's airworthiness and said it was reviewing all available data. "Thus far, our review shows no systemic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft," acting FAA Administrator Daniel K. Elwell said in a statement. "Nor have other civil aviation authorities provided data to us that would warrant action."
Some aviation experts have warned that finding answers in this crash could take months.
An Ethiopian pilot who saw the crash site minutes after the disaster told the AP that the plane appeared to have "slid directly into the ground."
Asrat, the Ethiopian Airlines spokesman, told the AP that the remains of victims recovered so far were in freezers and that forensic DNA work for identifications had not yet begun.
The dead came from 35 countries. The airline has identifying them should take five days.
More devastated families arrived at the crash site on Wednesday, some supported by loved ones and wailing.
Addis Ababa, Mar 10 (AP/UNB) — An Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed shortly after takeoff from the capital Sunday morning killing all 157 thought to be on board, according to statements from the airline and the state broadcaster.
There were no immediate details on what caused the crash of the Boeing 737-8 MAX plane, which was new and had been delivered to the airline in November.
The state-owned Ethiopian Airlines, widely considered the best-managed airline in Africa, calls itself Africa's largest carrier and has ambitions of becoming the gateway to the continent.
The airline's statement said 149 passengers and eight crew members were thought to be on the plane that crashed six minutes after departing Addis Ababa on its way to Kenya's capital. The crash occurred around Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, some 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of Addis Ababa, at 8:44 a.m.
While the airline said "search and rescue operations are in progress and we have no confirmed information about survivors or any possible casualties," a separate statement by the Ethiopian prime minister's office offered its "deepest condolences" to families.
State broadcaster EBC reported all passengers were dead and that the passengers included 33 nationalities. An Ethiopian Airlines spokesman said 32 Kenyans and 17 Ethiopians were among the victims.
James Macharia, Kenya's transport minister, told reporters that Kenyan authorities had not yet received the passenger manifest. He said an emergency response had been set up for family and friends.
"My prayers go to all the families and associates of those on board," Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta said, as many Kenyans braced for the worst.
Records show that the plane was new. The Planespotters civil aviation database shows that the Boeing 737-8 MAX was delivered to Ethiopian Airlines in mid-November.
In October, another Boeing 737-8 MAX plunged into the Java Sea just minutes after taking off from Jakarta, Indonesia's capital, killing all 189 people on board. The cockpit data recorder showed that the jet's airspeed indicator had malfunctioned on its last four flights, though Lion Air initially claimed that problems with the aircraft had been fixed.
The last deadly crash of an Ethiopian Airlines passenger plane was in 2010, when the plane crashed minutes after takeoff from Beirut killing all 90 people on board.
Sunday's crash comes as the country's reformist prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, has vowed to open up the airline and other sectors to foreign investment in a major transformation of the state-centered economy.
Ethiopian Airlines has been expanding assertively, recently opening a route to Moscow and in January inaugurating a new passenger terminal in Addis Ababa to triple capacity.
Speaking at the inauguration, the prime minister challenged the airline to build a new "Airport City" terminal in Bishoftu — where Sunday's crash occurred.