The Mozambique Red Cross is gearing up to provide emergency assistance to thousands of people displaced from their homes this week by Tropical Cyclone Dineo, amid reports of extensive damage to homes, hospitals, schools and other infrastructure in southern districts.

Mozambique’s National Emergency Operations Centre estimates that the cyclone displaced some 130,000 people in the hard-hit province of Inhambane and damaged or destroyed 22,000 homes, 49 hospitals and health facilities, 105 schools and other public buildings. Casualty figures remain unclear. Electricity is cut off in many areas, while roads are closed due to downed trees, debris and flooding. Heavy rains continue and worsening floods are anticipated.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is sending disaster response experts to Mozambique today, releasing emergency funds to support the Mozambique Red Cross response and providing 500 affected families with tarps for emergency shelter and tools for making shelter repairs.

More than 1,000 volunteers are already working in affected communities in coordination with Inhambane provincial authorities to provide safety and evacuation information in case of severe floods, and are prepared to deliver first aid if necessary.

“The displacement of families from their homes, the disruption of health services and the prospect of extensive flooding and water contamination all come with major public health risks that will need to be addressed quickly,” says IFRC’s disaster management coordinator for southern Africa, Jamie LeSueur, who deploys to Mozambique today.

“We expect to help the Mozambique Red Cross scale up shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene assistance and deliver pre-positioned emergency supplies, as soon as needs assessments are completed,” adds LeSueur.

The governments of Zimbabwe and South Africa have also issued flood alerts as Dineo, which has been downgraded to a tropical storm, threatens heavy rains and flooding as it moves westward.  Red Cross volunteers are being mobilized and contingency plans put in place along the path of the storm in anticipation of humanitarian needs.

“In all of these countries, people are already exceptionally vulnerable after two years of prolonged drought, food shortages and loss of livelihoods,” says LeSueur. “The impacts of a new disaster like this one may further erode their capacity to cope and rebound, and that’s a serious concern.”