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Multinational flood-relief force spreads across Mozambique
Rescuers race against time to help inundated country
MAPUTO, Mozambique (CNN) -- Helicopters and boats from a multinational force fanned across Mozambique early Tuesday in a race to deliver badly needed food and medicines to the flood-stricken country.
Military officials said up to 50 helicopters would be in the skies and 100 boats would be deployed.
The floods have affected a million people, and officials warn that more heavy rain is ahead.
People salvaged what they could from their mud-soaked homes, keeping a wary eye on a fierce storm to the east that threatens to dump more rain on already saturated areas.
U.N. officials said Tropical Cyclone Gloria has waned, but warned that heavy rain exceeding 50 millimeters (2 inches) daily could develop Tuesday and Wednesday, especially in the hardest-hit southern region.
"We are concerned about the weather. Rainfall of up to or above 50 mm could seriously affect rivers," said U.N. special envoy Ross Mountain.
"The only good news is that this time round, we are better resourced to deal with another flooding disaster."
United States acted late, critics say
More contingents from the United States, Asia and Africa will arrive in the country to help it deal with the aftermath of its worst floods in living memory.
About 900 U.S. military personnel arrived in Mozambique on Tuesday to join rescue operations. But some Mozambicans said the rescue operations by U.S. forces are too little and too late.
"We could have saved some more lives if we had this kind of support from the beginning ... everyone was aware of the human tragedy that has been happening there. Why so late?" Machel said.
South Africa was the first to come to Mozambique's rescue when the Limpopo River valley was inundated. It sent helicopters to lift more than 10,000 Mozambicans to dry land.
A senior U.S. Air Force official did not directly answer the criticism but said U.S. forces could not move into Mozambique, a sovereign territory, without the invitation of the Mozambique government. That invitation came on Saturday.
"We do bring some unique capabilities," said Gen. Joseph Wherle Jr., commander of the Third Air Force. The U.S. mission is expected to remain in Mozambique until the end of March.
The World Food Program (WFP) said it was urging Mozambicans in the flooded areas not to return home just yet.
"We are appealing to people not to move back to their homes but to wait and see what happens with the weather in the next few days," WFP spokeswoman Brenda Barton said.
Weather Bureau officials in Mozambique said rains in neighboring Zimbabwe and South Africa posed the greatest danger to Mozambique and its Limpopo River, which reached record depths last week.
Workers hurry to collect bodies
In the remote town of Chokwe, the hardest-hit area north of Maputo, aid workers reported an overwhelming stench of dead bodies, sparking an effort to deliver 1,000 body bags on Monday.
Even without more flooding, outbreaks of disease threaten more people than those who died beneath the muddy waters. Outbreaks of malaria and cholera were speeding through refugee camps.
The scope of the tragedy was almost incomprehensible. With acres of crops destroyed, Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano said he expected his countrymen would need help for almost a year -- at least $250 million in aid -- until they could begin to harvest a new crop.
Correspondents Catherine Bond, Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Reuters contributed to this report.
Life-saving relief on its way to Mozambique
NOAA: Hurricanes, typhoons, and tropical cyclones
DISASTER RELIEF SITES:
USAFE Atlas Response Web Site
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