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New cyclone aims at Mozambique

BY SUSAN KIM | Washington | April 6, 2000

Cyclone Hudah bore down on Mozambique Wednesday as the country is still struggling to provide relief from its worst natural disaster in history. The new storm could bring heavy rains and winds of up to 85 mph to Mozambique's northeastern coastal provinces of Zambezia and Nampula.

That section of the country was one of the only areas not affected by previous flooding, which killed 700 people and directly affected at least 700,000 more.

Severe flooding early in the year was followed by cyclones Eline and Gloria, which struck Madagascar and Mozambique in February.

Cyclone Hudah -- which had about a 300-mile radius on Wednesday -- killed at least 13 people in Madagascar Monday, where in some areas "it wiped out

everything that wasn't a concrete block home," said Carol Kreamer, coordinator of the Mozambique initiative for the General Board of Global Ministries for

the United Methodist Church. Initial damage reports indicate that Hudah left 50,000 more people homeless and 100,000 more without food or water.

In Mozambique, the new storm could potentially affect another 400,000 people. Relief leaders are adopting a tense "wait-and-see" stance as they batten down

distribution centers and temporary housing. Many groups are preparing to distribute emergency aid supplies to survivors hit by the new storm. But as the

storm bears down, communications with and between relief officials become increasingly difficult.

Church World Service (CWS) is monitoring the situation and will expand its relief appeal as needed. CWS is supporting efforts to help the Christian Council

of Mozambique, Presbyterian Church of Mozambique, Council of Churches of Madagascar, FIKRIFAMA of Madagascar, and the South Africa Council of

Churches. CWS's last appeal was expanded on March 20 to $2.6 million. CWS funds are used to purchase items such as resettlement kits and blankets, and

are also used to support the efforts of on- the-ground relief workers.

Other relief agencies are also considering expansion of relief shipments and monetary appeals. "We're preparing to send a third shipment of relief supplies,"

said Jerry Dystra, spokesperson for Michigan-based International Aid. "We're waiting to see what happens."

International Aid's shipments have included vitamins, water purification tablets, hygiene kits, medicines, blankets, baby food, and oral re-hydration salts.

International Aid Disaster Relief Coordinator Sonny Enriquez recently returned from Mozambique. "If the rains don't diminish, the people of Mozambique

will possibly face a major famine in several months," he said.

Already, there are reports of hungry people rampaging food warehouses and other facilities.

Feed the Children -- coordinating with Missions Unlimited, Samaritan's Purse, and Nazarene Compassionate Ministries -- furnished 18,000 pounds of baby

food from its Nashville warehouse. American Airlines agreed to fly the shipment - some 1,175 cases of baby food along with other supplies -- free from

Nashville to Johannesburg.

Damage caused by the cyclones is compounded by rising fears of a cholera outbreak in the worst-affected areas, added Enriquez. "Outbreaks of diseases

such as malaria and cholera are spreading. In one refugee camp, there was an initial report of 300 cases of malaria. Now the toll is over 5,000 cases. There is a

huge need for medicine, clean water, oral re-hydration salts, and water purification tablets. Medical clinics and transportation systems will need to be rebuilt

as well."

Enriquez added that compassionate response has united many denominations and cultures. "The floods have brought many people of various beliefs and

backgrounds together," he said.

Relief workers who travel to Mozambique say that the reported statistics don't indicate the seriousness of the situation. "The reality is much worse than one

can formulate a picture of," said Des van der Water, general secretary of the United Congregation Church in Southern Africa, a partner of the Christian

Church (Disciples of Christ).

"The families we visited were all busy either stacking bags around their houses or trying to solidify the areas around their homes so that further soil erosion

and caving in did not happen," he said. "I simply do not know how much longer many people will be able to hold out if the rains continue, because right

now so many people are still battling merely to save their homes."

United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) consultants and staff have also traveled to Mozambique. They are working with the United Methodist

Church in Mozambique to determine the most effective ways to keep responding to those who are homeless or without food and water. UMCOR is also developing a long-term response plan.

Methodist churches in the U.S., along with many other denominations, have participated in a church-wide appeal for relief money.

Relief efforts have been focusing on Madagascar as well as Mozambique. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) completed the second of a series of food

distributions in the Vatomandry district of eastern Madagascar. The distribution was part of an overall emergency response offering food assistance to more than 90,000 people in Madagascar.

Madagascar has been battling a cholera epidemic since March 1999, when the bacteria was introduced into the northwestern part of the country from the neighboring Comoros Islands and quickly spread.

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