Massive flooding hit Mozambique on Sunday in the wake of Cyclone Kenneth, which ravaged northern parts of the country three days ago with high winds and torrential rain.
Floodwaters were waist-high in some places, and authorities urged people to immediately seek higher ground. Hundreds of thousands were at risk.
"Help us, we are losing everything!" residents in the region's main city, Pemba, reportedly shouted at passing cars as the rushing waters flooded their homes and heavy rain fell.
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Houses began to collapse and at least one rescue team was mobilized, United Nations staffers said. "We are unfortunately expecting devastating floods," the U.N. humanitarian agency said in a tweet.
Some Pemba residents tried to pile up tires and sand-filled sacks as barricades. Children took refuge in a bus that appeared to be stuck as vehicles struggled on the streets. One woman stood in front of the bus, seemingly stunned, as the rain pounded down.
"We will keep moving until we get somewhere safe," one man said. "I have never seen such rains in my life," another resident, Michael Fernando, told the Associated Press.
At least five people died after Cyclone Kenneth hit Thursday night with the force of a Category 4 hurricane, catching residents off guard in a region where this type of storm had not been seen in the modern era.
It was only six weeks ago that Cyclone Idai ripped into central Mozambique and killed more than 600 people.
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The remnants of Kenneth could dump twice as much rain as Idai did, according to the U.N. World Program. It was the flooding after Idai that caused most of the deaths. As much as 9 inches of torrential rain, or about a quarter of the average annual rainfall for the region, is forecast over the next few days.
This was the first time in recorded history that the southern African nation has been hit by two cyclones in one season, again raising concerns about climate change.
Nearly 700,000 people could be at risk in the largely rural region, many already exposed and hungry. Some rivers in the region have burst their banks in the past, notably in 2000.
There was no immediate word on Sunday of other districts that had been hit much harder by the cyclone.
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Aerial photos taken on Saturday showed several coastal communities flattened by the storm in Mozambique's northernmost Cabo Delgado province. "Not a single house is standing anymore," Saviano Abreu, a spokesman with the U.N. humanitarian agency, told reporters after the aerial assessment.
With about 3,500 homes in parts of Cabo Delgado partially or fully destroyed, families waded to what they hoped were safer areas or huddled under impromptu shelters.
Already, livelihoods have been lost and people are wondering how they will cope in a country struggling with one of the world's highest poverty rates.
With notebook and pen in hand, elderly Luis Momade walked near the beach in Pemba on Saturday, taking advantage of a lull in the rains to quantify the damage from the cyclone. The president of the local Paquite Residents Association, his notebook was almost full with names and figures of boats damaged or destroyed.
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With unemployment rife and many in coastal areas surviving with fishing and related activities, not going to sea could mean going hungry for days.
Men, women and children foraged in the waters off the littered shore, looking for seashells to sell.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.