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About 250 People Killed, Thousands Homeless After Floods Strike Zimbabwe

Families wait near tents last month after they were left homeless following deadly floods in Zimbabwe.

Severe flooding and lightning strikes have killed about 250 people and left close to 2,000 homeless in Zimbabwe since October, according to the government.

More than 100 people have been injured.

As NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports, officials have declared a national disaster and appealed to international donors for $100 million to help flood-stricken areas.

Zimbabwe's minister of local government, Saviour Kasukuwere, said in a statement Thursday that the crisis stems from "an astounding shift from a drought condition to an excessively wet situation." Heavy rains had already soaked the region when Tropical Cyclone Dineo raked across southern Africa last month.

According to government figures, the severe weather has damaged more than 2,500 homesteads, 74 schools and five health institutions.

Kasukuwere said some communities have been cut off from social services and that there was an urgent need for blankets, clothing, food aid and access to safe water.

"Most roads have been turned into gullies and almost all districts have reported areas that are inaccessible following the collapse of bridges," he said.

The country's transportation minister said five bridges had been swept away by the floodwaters, Ofeibea reports.

"The affected populations are in dire need of assistance to rebuild their homes, rehabilitation of social institutions as well as recover lost property and livelihoods," Kasukuwere said.

He said his ministry is working with U.N. agencies, nongovernmental organizations, other government agencies, development partners and the private sector to help those affected by the flood. But he added that "gaps still exist which require more humanitarian assistance."

Even before the heavy rains struck, Zimbabwe's government had been struggling to meet routine financial commitments.

The Associated Press reports that:

"Thousands of nurses in state hospitals went on strike this week over a lack of bonus payments, straining an already dire situation at the poorly resourced hospitals.

"State hospital doctors have been on strike since Feb. 15, forcing the government to send in army and police doctors to care for patients."

Last year, Zimbabwe faced a severe drought. It was so extreme that, as NPR's Merrit Kennedy reported in April, the country was putting some of the wild animals in its reserves up for sale.

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