At least 31 people have died in eastern Zimbabwe, with dozens still missing as homes and bridges were swept away by tropical storm, Cyclone Idai, state television reports.
The storm, which brought floodwater and destruction to areas in Mozambique and Malawi, hit Zimbabwe on Friday, cutting off power and communications.
Pictures shared on social media and television footage showed that roads, houses and bridges have been washed away, while communication towers were knocked down and electricity cables blocked roads in Chimanimani district, 410 kilometres east of the capital, Harare.
According to ZBC, the state television, said 31 people had died in the district,with more than 70 people missing.
The information ministry said the army had moved in to rescue 197 pupils trapped at a local school.
“This a very challenging operation as it’s being undertaken as a ground effort because of unsafe weather conditions for air efforts,” the ministry said in a statement.
Joshua Sacco, a member of parliament in Chimanimani,said the district had been cut off from the rest of the country, as the storm left a trail of destruction similar to Cyclone Eline in February 2000, which devastated the southern part of the country.
Sacco said the death toll was expected to rise as rescue efforts continued.
Chimanimani, which is the country’s border with Mozambique, has been worst affected.
The storm caused floods, as well as destroying crops and plantations, Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Information said.
Air force helicopters were said to have rescued people, but the operation was being hampered by heavy winds.
Zimbabwe has faced a severe drought this year that has damaged crops, and a United Nations humanitarian agency says 5.3 million people will require food aid.
The country’s meteorological services expect rains to continue throughout the weekend.