Cyclone Kenneth hits northern Mozambique as Zimbabwe remains edgy
AFTER exploding in intensity to the equivalent of a high-end Category 4 hurricane, Tropical Cyclone Kenneth began crashing ashore in northern Mozambique on Thursday evening, six weeks after the country was devastated by its deadliest storm on record, Cyclone Idai.
Kenneth struck with destructive winds of least 135 mph (220 kph) and a towering storm surge of 3 metres. In the coming days, devastating inland flooding is expected as the ferocious storm slows and unloads as much as 1,000 mm of rain.
A spokesman for Mozambique’s National Institute of Disaster Management (INGC) said the cyclone was nearing Cabo Delgado province, where it was raining heavily.
“We’ve already evacuated 30,000 people from the areas likely to be hit by the cyclone. The compulsory evacuation process will continue until we have all people in secure ground,” INGC spokesman Paulo Tomas said.
The INGC said it had supplies ready to assist 140,000 people for 15 days.
Mozambican officials said on Wednesday more than 680,000 people were at risk from the latest storm. There were concerns that five rivers and coastal waterways could burst their banks, leading to severe flooding.
Government and humanitarian officials did not anticipate the extent of the flooding in the wake of Cyclone Idai last month, and an early warning system implemented did not reach everyone.
Sitting over unusually warm water in the southwestern Indian Ocean, Kenneth briefly acquired a “pinhole eye” characteristic of the most intense tropical weather systems.
The storm was expected to unleash extreme wind damage near where it made landfall.
The region of landfall is somewhat sparsely populated, but there are scattered towns up and down the coastal zone. Pemba, home to about 200,000, sits about 60 miles south of where Kenneth was anticipated to come ashore.
Cyclone Kenneth is expected to linger over Mozambique, dumping rain until late Monday evening and bringing the risk of more intense flooding, said Dipuo Tawana, forecaster at the South African Weather Service.
In neighboring Zimbabwe, where hundreds died in heavy rains following Cyclone Idai, the civil protection department sent out a warning that some areas near the eastern border with Mozambique could be affected by the cyclone.
U.S. energy firm Anadarko, which is developing large natural gas fields off Mozambique, said it had suspended air transportation in and out of its site as a precaution. Exxon Mobil, also involved in gas fields offshore Mozambique, said it was monitoring the situation.
In Comoros early on Thursday, fallen trees and debris from homes were scattered over streets, and houses had their roofs torn off.
The winds caused widespread power outages in the northern part of the main island, Grande Comore, and the capital Moroni as well as on the island of Anjouan, residents said. Government offices and schools were closed. — Reuters/Agencies