BEIRA, Mozambique (Reuters) – Worshipers gathered in violent churches in the Mozambican port of Beira on Sunday and prayed for divine protection as the death toll crept up from a cyclone and flood around southern Africa.
"We asked Jesus to protect us so that it didn't happen again," congregant and survivor Maria Domingas, 60, saw trees rushing into her house and water filling her bedroom.
Cyclon Idai hit Beira, on the Indian Ocean, with the winds up to 170 km / h, before entering inland to Zimbabwe and Malawi, fluttering home and killing at least 656 people.
Mozambique's deathplace rose to 446 from 417, a government minister said Sunday. In Zimbabwe, U.N. agencies have given different tolls on 259 and 1
At the universal church in Beira, evangelical Christians gathered in the farm because of severe damage from the cyclone. The plate roof was inlaid, cables draped over wooden chairs, and the floor was a mess of broken rubble.
The congregation stretched arms forward and swung in prayer. "You can see the strength of their eyes," said the 36-year-old priest, known as Junior. "From today we look forward."
When he led the service with approx. 150 people, shook a piece partially taken hold of the wind.
"Only with God can we move on," said Rosa Manuel, 59, who lost a house she had built to rent.
Mocambiqua's Land and Environment Minister Celso Correia said the cyclone had hit 531.000 people in its country, with 110,000 people in temporary camps.
Helicopters and boats have saved some people stranded for days on rooftops and trees.
Some survivors have dug through ruins with their bare hands to search for loved them while state and aid agencies have flown in help.
There is fear of illness.
"We want cholera, we want malaria. It's inevitable in this situation, so the government has already opened a cholera treatment center already," Correia told reporters.
Sebastian Rhodes Stampa, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said that the humanitarian situation was gradually improving.
"Every day, the water draws back when we reach more people. Every day, the roads we open up open and we can deliver more volume, and that's important here," he said.
In Washington, the Pentagon said it would provide up to $ 6.5 million in humanitarian aid to provide logistics support for up to 10 days from March 22.
"The scope of logistics support includes airlift of relief materials, responders and third-party staff," says a Pentagon statement.
"U.S. Africa Command actively monitors and assesses the situation, while placing assets in support of the government of the Republic of Mozambique, said the supreme US Secretary-General of Africa in a separate statement.
Additional reporting by Yvonne Bell in Beira, Macdonald Dzirutwe in Harare and Idrees Ali in Washington; Writing by Alexandra Zavis and Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Editing Alison Williams, Andrew Cawthorne and Daniel Wallis