Cyclone Idai, the worst storm to threaten Mozambique in years, is due to make landfall late on Thursday according to South Africa’s Weather Services (SAWS).
The powerful hurricane – called a “rare giant hurricane” in some international news reports – threatens to rip through Mozambique’s second largest port with winds of over 190 km per hour causing devastating destruction. Heavy rain, high seas, storm surges and water dumping are expected.
Citing government officials and media reports, the United Nations said more than 100 people (111) had already died in heavy rains and flooding in Mozambique and Malawi as the cyclone approaches.
Villages have been left underwater and floods have washed away houses and knocked out power in some areas. The UN reported at least 6,000 homes destroyed already, along with 18 hospitals and 938 classrooms.
Cyclone Idai has already become the worst weather disaster of 2019.
Almost 100,000 people have been displaced across the two countries, said the UN, with humanitarian operations including evacuations already underway in both, and a red alert issued in Mozambique ahead of the storm. Domestic flights have been cancelled.
Malawi and Mozambique send SOS to South Africa
Both Malawi and Mozambique have requested humanitarian and rescue assistance from the South African government following the destruction caused by Cyclone Idai.
A light aircraft has been dispatched with a team of specialists to Malawi to establish the exact humanitarian assistance required.
“South Africa remains committed to offer whatever assistance within its capacity to SADC member states,” Cabinet said in a statement on Thursday.
No threat to South Africa
The South African Weather Service says Mozambique’s Cyclone Idai will not pose a threat to South Africa.
However, Mzansi will have its own, unrelated weather challenges such as possible heavy rains and localised flash flooding in some parts of the country.
Landfall Thursday evening
In a tweet, the SAWS said the storm is expected to hit land on Thursday evening within 60 km of Beira, the country’s fourth largest city, bringing “life-threatening” storm surges of 3-4 meters, rising to 5-6 meters in a river running from the port city to Zimbabwe.
Images on Twitter already showed some bad weather at Beira, a gateway for imports to landlocked countries in south-east Africa, with billboards and telephone poles pulled down by winds.
Previous storms in Mozambique
The storm threatens a familiar natural disaster in Mozambique, which has already seen deadly floods worsened by devastating hurricanes in both 2000 and 2007.
Cyclone Eline, which hit the country in February 2000 when it was already devastated by its worst floods in three decades, left 350 dead and 650,000 homeless across southern Africa. Whole cities were left without access to clean water, sanitation or electricity.
Cyclone Idai also follows Cyclone Favio, which battered southern Mozambique with winds of up to 230 kilometers, uprooting trees, knocking over electricity pylons and worsening deadly floods.
Mozambique has significant offshore liquefied natural gas projects underway in the north, but these were currently out of harm’s way.
SA News reports that Idai is expected to weaken into an overland depression on Friday but is still expected to result in significant and torrential rainfall and widespread flooding over the Sofala and Manica provinces of Mozambique.
Sources: SANews, UN and Reuters (Reporting by Emma Rumney, Alexander Winning; Editing by Toby Chopra/Reuters and Jenni Baxter/SAPeople)
Powerful #cyclone Idai is expected to lash #Mozambique, threatening to destroy homes and put thousands of lives at risk. #RedCross teams are on the ground, ready to respond. pic.twitter.com/K979Pptflq
— IFRC Intl. Federation #RedCross #RedCrescent (@ifrc) March 12, 2019
Getting crazy in Beira, Mozambique. Not sssafe to travel………. pic.twitter.com/BZ6o9xViQ5
— Shazandre (@merndashaz) March 14, 2019
Beira, Mozambique is on the verge of a catastrophic landfall from Cyclone #Idai.
— Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) March 14, 2019