NEARLY 40 students from Dzingire Primary School in Chimanimani are feared dead as the country continue to count the cost of the devastation caused by Cyclone Idai.
This comes as the death toll from the natural disaster that left a trail of destruction in its wake in Manicaland is envisaged to rise to 300.
Officially, at least 144 deaths have been reported – five from Masvingo Province and the rest from Manicaland.
Information deputy minister Energy Mutodi yesterday confirmed receiving reports of missing children from Dzingire Primary School, but referred questions to Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA), which is conducting the search operation.
He said: “The report is genuine; the school has sent a report to us and we have signalled the army who are now searching to see if there are survivors. For more information you can contact the army commander himself”.
The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) told the Daily News yesterday that 39 students from Dzingire Primary School, their headmaster, two teachers and a clerk from the institution have not been accounted for, amid fears that they could have been buried in the mud or swept away by the heavy floods.
PTUZ secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said the scale of the tragedy could be much bigger than the education sector had imagined.
“We have lost a lot as we gather that many more children are missing with reports we are getting from our teams suggesting that around 19 teachers and more than 100 children are missing,” he said.
“Some of them could be alive because we are told some of them may have run into the mountains to escape the floods and lost their way back. There has been so much devastation on the education sector and children and teachers are in need to psycho-social support”.
An estimated 1,5 million people have been affected by the cyclone which hit Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.
The high-speed winds – accompanied by landslides – ripped apart homes, schools and health clinics – submerging vast tracts of farmland and destroying crops.
Tens of thousands were forced to seek shelter on higher ground as infrastructure such as roads and bridges, as well as power lines, water supplies and telecommunication towers were damaged.
Since last week, government, which has since declared Cyclone Idai a national disaster, has been coordinating rescue efforts.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, government dedicated this entire week to national mourning.
It has also deployed members of the ZNA, Air Force of Zimbabwe and sub-aqua unit to rescue stranded villagers and students in the hard-hit Chimanimani area.
Representatives from the international community and other volunteers are also on the ground, searching for survivors and missing people.
Donations in cash and kind continue to pour in from individuals, several companies and organisations.
NetOne has donated $50 000 towards the purchase of an array of key basic items, including food to feed affected families.
FBC Holdings has also donated 20 tonnes of groceries worth more than RTGS$60 000 as well as 1 000 litres of fuel in order to ease transport logistics for relief activities.
The group also made a commitment to construct classroom blocks and finance the education of children who lost their parents and guardians due to the tropical cyclone.
On its part Stanbic Bank donated RTGS$200 000 for the purchase of 39 tents, 5 by 2,5 KVA generators, 700 blankets, 2 000 cases of bottled water, 2000 packs of reusable sanitary pads, 500 thick black plastic sheets and an assortment of goods.
International donors have also come in handy with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) deploying medical staff and supplies to Skyline in Chimanimani, where a mobile clinic has been set up to support those displaced by the disaster.
IRC is also supporting those displaced with food and kits for women.