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Cyclone survivors in Mozambique struggle without badly needed supplies

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By Associated Press  with NBC News World News
Image: Damage in the Macomia district following Cyclone Kenneth in Mozambiq
Damage in the Macomia district following Cyclone Kenneth in Mozambique on April 27, 2019.   -   Copyright  Saviano Abreu

PEMBA, Mozambique — Rains were still pounding parts of northern Mozambique on Tuesday, several days after Cyclone Kenneth, while the United Nations said aid workers faced "an incredibly difficult situation" in reaching thousands of survivors. At least 38 people are dead, the government said.

U.N. humanitarian spokeswoman Gemma Connell said bad weather kept badly needed supplies from arriving in the coastal city of Pemba on Monday. This will be a challenge in the rainy days ahead, she told The Associated Press.

The government again urged Pemba residents to flee to higher ground as flooding continued. More than 22 inches of rain have fallen in Pemba since Kenneth made landfall last Thursday, just six weeks after Cyclone Idai tore into central Mozambique.

This is the first time two cyclones have struck the southern African nation in a single season, and Kenneth was the first cyclone recorded so far north in Mozambique in the modern era of satellite imaging.

Up to 3 inches of rain were forecast over the next 24 hours, and rivers in the region were expected to reach flood peak by Thursday, the U.N. Humanitarian Office said, citing a UK aid analysis. It is the end of the rainy season and rivers were already high.

Scores of thousands of people in the Macomia and Quissanga districts north of Pemba and on Ibo Island need food and shelter. About 35,000 buildings and homes were partly or fully destroyed, the government said. At least three bridges had collapsed, stranding some communities.

"These people lost everything," Connell said. "It is critical that we get them the food that they need to survive." Women and children have been the hardest hit "without the basics that they need to get by," especially shelter, she said.

A lull in the rain on Tuesday allowed a first flight to leave for Quissanga with food and health supplies, the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) told reporters in Geneva.

The cyclone will affect the region for months to come after wreaking havoc on the key livelihoods of fishing and agriculture in the largely rural region, the WFP said. Some 76,600 acres of crops were lost at the peak of the harvest season.

"The area is already very vulnerable to food insecurity," said UN spokesman Herve Verhoosel. Mozambique's northernmost Cabo Delgado province has the country's second-highest rate of chronic malnutrition at 53%, WFP said.

Authorities were preparing for a possible cholera outbreak as some wells were contaminated and safe drinking water became a growing concern.

With the pair of deadly cyclones — Idai killed more than 600 people last month — Mozambique is "a very complex humanitarian situation," Connell said. Only a quarter of the funding needed for Idai relief efforts has come in while funding for Kenneth has been slow.

"This is a new crisis," she said. "We are having to stretch across the two operations. That is a basic reality we are dealing with every day."