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Back-To-Back Cyclones Hit Southern Africa

By Jehron Muhammad | Last updated: May 9, 2019 - 10:49:32 AM

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Clothes are seen on a drying line at a house damaged by Cyclone Kenneth in Ibo island north of Pemba city in Mozambique, May, 1. The government has said more than 40 people have died after the cyclone made landfall on Thursday, and the humanitarian situation in Pemba and other areas is dire. More than 22 inches (55 centimeters) of rain have fallen in Pemba since Kenneth arrived just six weeks after Cyclone Idai tore into central Mozambique.

“The dangerous cyclone made landfall in Cabo Delgado, about 100 km (62 miles) north of Pemba, at the end of the day on April 25, local time. Kenneth had 10-minute maximum sustained winds of 200 km/h (124 mph), the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane in the Atlantic or eastern Pacific oceans, as it moved onshore.”

The Associated Press reported that floodwater in parts of Pemba, for several days, was waist high and homes collapsed amid the flooding in northern Mozambique.

Nearly 700,000 people may have been impacted by the cyclone, the AP said, citing Mozambique’s disaster management agency. “Many have been left exposed and hungry amid rising floodwaters,” the news service said.

AP also reported that on April 30 rains were still pounding parts of northern Mozambique. The United Nations reported that aid workers faced “an incredibly difficult situation” in reaching thousands of survivors. At least 38 people are dead, the government said. In addition, the government repeatedly warned Pemba residents to flee to higher ground as flooding continued. Compounding the problem? This is the end of rainy season, meaning that land is already saturated.

Thousands of people in Macomia and Quissanga districts north of Pemba and on Ibo Island need food and shelter. A government report said that nearly 35,000 buildings and homes were severely damaged or fully destroyed, at least three bridges had collapsed, stranding some communities.

This is the first time two cyclones have struck the southern African nation in a single season,and Kenneth was the first cyclone recorded so far north in Mozambique in the modern era of satellite imaging.

Idai made landfall in Mozambique on March 14 and March 15 as a Category 2 storm. Kenneth came ashore in northern Mozambique on April 25, with hurricane-force winds and heavy rains. It arrived, reported Accuweather, only six weeks after Idai “devastated a broad area of the country about 600 miles south of Cyclone Kenneth’s impact zone.” The extent of damage is still being determined, but flooding is expected in coastal areas of northern Mozambique and southern Tanzania.

Death tolls from Idai include victims in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, according to CNN. There are at least 750 lives lost and 1,000 feared dead. For Cyclone Kenneth, some 38 deaths were reported.

Jeff Wright, World Vision’s Cyclone Idai response director, says he is concerned about what may happen to children impacted by Cyclone Kenneth. Cyclone Idai has shown just how vulnerable people are to these kinds of disasters that tear down homes, destroy crops, displace hundreds of thousands of people, and force untold numbers of children out of school that are damaged or that become evacuation centers, he said.

Mozambique’s agricultural economy has been devastated. According to the UK-based Guardian newspaper, central Mozambique has traditionally been the country’s breadbasket.

“Between them, the provinces of Sofala, where Buzi is found, and Manica once produced 25 percent of the national cereal output in a country where 80 percent of the population relies on agriculture for support. But almost all of that is gone. More than 700,000 hectares of crops were destroyed by Idai and the UN estimates 1.85 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. The Food and Agriculture Organization has started distributing seeds and agricultural equipment to communities at ‘risk of immediate food insecurity,’ ” observed Lisa Ratcliffe, a communications officer.

In a statement, the World Bank said, “Early estimates pointed to Cyclone Idai costing $2 billion for the infrastructure and livelihood impacts.” It continued, “To date, about three million people have been affected, with near total damage in the worst affected areas.”

In addition, the World Bank said the cyclone had damaged the infrastructure corridor connecting the Mozambican port of Beira with Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe “disrupting regional trade and supplies, of fuel, wheat and other goods.”

The UN has appealed for donations of $282 million to fund emergency assistance for the next several months.

Daviz Simango, the mayor of the city of Beira, who is also the leader of an opposition party, claims the Mozambican government failed to warn people, even though a “red alert” had been issued two days before the cyclone struck.

He claims they were totally unprepared for the disaster and “profound negligence” led to many deaths. Though his city was able to respond to the Red Alert, rural areas were not alerted, he said. He told the Guardian, “People were not warned in the areas at risk.”

“There was no mapping of areas vulnerable to flooding. I have the impression that the authorities did not do their homework, and there was profound negligence in how the red alert was managed,” he said.

Mozambique suffered for hundreds of years of colonial rule and a 15-year civil war, leaving the country extremely poor—now the back-to-back cyclones.

Some potential relief in 2011 came with the discovery of natural gas but, according to published reports, that discovery became mired in a secret debt scandal that pushed the country into financial crisis.

“The government took out a $2 billion of secret debt, organized at the London offices of the Russian state-owned bank VTB and Credit Suisse. An audit by the corporate investigation firm Kroll could not account for a quarter of the money; an indictment was filed in a U.S. court and three former Credit Suisse bankers and Mozambique’s former finance minister have been arrested,” The Guardian reported.

According to the Guardian, those who once provided much needed revenue “are expected to be wary of supporting the huge reconstruction effort that will be needed unless they are assured that their money will not be stolen.”

Simango said, “If we want credibility and for the country to be respected, there must be an audit.”

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