HARARE, March 25 (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe's relief efforts got a boost Monday when the European Union (EU) availed a helicopter to support relief efforts in the eastern part of the country following the devastating impact of Cyclone Idai over a week ago.
The helicopter, an Mi-8AMT, will be operated by the World Food Program and started its mission in Mutare, capital city of Manicaland province on Monday, the EU said in a statement.
"It can transport up to three metric tons or 19 people and will connect responders with cut-off and hard-to-reach areas of Chimanimani and Chipinge. This enables transport of necessary relief items but also personnel and injured people for a period of approximately three weeks," the EU said.
It said the helicopter will be at the free disposal of about 20 humanitarian organizations, and will do about five rotations per day.
The helicopter comes at a time when the government has been lamenting slow movement of relief items to the effected people due to damaged infrastructure especially roads and bridges.
The helicopter is therefore expected to speed up distribution of food and other relief items to areas ravaged by the Cyclone, which has so far killed more than 150 people and displaced thousands of others particularly in the hardest hit Chimanimani district.
EU ambassador to Zimbabwe Timo Olkkonen is expected to visit the affected areas this week. He expressed hope that the helicopter will go a long way in improving the difficult relief operations underway.