Cyclone Idai: SADC countries 'completely unprepared' for disaster, says Sisulu

South Africa's capacity to identify and respond to natural disasters has "gone down" and is worse than it was in 1999, International Relations and Cooperation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu told Parliament on Wednesday.

She added that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is and was "completely unprepared" for Cyclone Idai and other natural disaster events of this magnitude.

Parts of Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique have been devastated by the powerful cyclone that has left a humanitarian crisis in its wake.

Sisulu stated, in reference to the cyclone making landfall in Zimbabwe, that "we didn't detect a cyclone, we thought it was just unseasonally heavy rains". She said the damage "was beyond the [capacity of] support of South Africa".

News24 previously reported that in Zimbabwe the cyclone killed at least 98 people and more than 200 are missing.

In Malawi, the storm has affected more than a million people and more than 80 000 people were forced from their homes.

10 000 estimated dead

But it is in Mozambique where the damage has been most notable.

The minister also mentioned a phone call from Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi on Tuesday morning in which the president said a dam near Beira, the site of some of the most severe devastation, "was close to breaking".

The dam walls subsequently broke, compounding the destruction in the already flood-damaged and low-lying area.

"Beira is gone, completely gone," Sisulu said.

Explainer: Why southern African cyclone is so shattering

The lives of hundreds of thousands of people are at risk after a cyclone ripped into central Mozambique and heavy rains continue to fall. Aid groups report people clinging to rooftops and trees as rivers burst their banks and waters rise. Authorities openly worry that the world has not grasped the severity of the crisis.

She added that the Red Cross estimated "no less than 10 000 people [have] perished" and that ''it is a catastrophe of a magnitude we have never had on the African continent".

Sisulu said this "points to us as a collective, as the SADC, increasing our capacity of detection of weather patterns because we were completely unprepared".

She added that the SADC depended on South Africa's capacity.

Sisulu stated that "we are coordinating all the efforts from the United Nations and all other countries that are assisting in [dealing with the effects of] the cyclone".

KEEP UPDATED on the latest news by subscribing to our FREE newsletter.

- FOLLOW News24 on Twitter