New cyclone hits Mozambique; 1 dead as big floods warned

Cara Anna
Associated Press
A man stands on fallen trees which damaged his home in Moroni, Comoros, Thursday, April 25, 2019.

Johannesburg – The second powerful cyclone to strike Mozambique in just six weeks ripped off roofs, killed at least one person and dumped heavy rain on Friday as the United Nations warned of “massive flooding” ahead.

Cyclone Kenneth packed the power of a Category 4 hurricane as it approached Mozambique, with maximum sustained winds of 136 mph, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center said. The government said it evacuated around 30,000 people before the storm.

Over the next 10 days, the storm is expected to dump twice as much rain as Cyclone Idai did last month, according to World Food Program spokesman Herve Verhoosel. Idai killed more than 600 people and displaced tens of thousands.

This is the first time in recorded history that the southern African nation has been hit by two cyclones in one season, the U.N. said.

The new cyclone made landfall Thursday night in a part of Mozambique that hasn’t seen such a storm in at least 60 years, forecasters said, again raising concerns about climate change and the country’s vulnerable, 1,500-mile Indian Ocean coastline.

Mozambique’s local emergency operations center said a woman in the city of Pemba was killed by a falling tree, while a “high number” of houses in Macomia district in Cabo Delgado province were destroyed. Four ships sank off Palma town, with no reported deaths, the center said. On Ibo island, about 90% of houses in the main village were destroyed.

“Cyclone Kenneth may require a major new humanitarian operation” in one of the world’s poorest nations, even as post-Cyclone Idai relief operations are expected to continue for months, U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said in a statement.

“The families whose lives have been turned upside down by these climate-related disasters urgently need the generosity of the international community to survive over the coming months,” he said.

As with the earlier cyclone, thousands of people in the days ahead could be left exposed and hungry as waters rise. Forecasters expected the remnants of the storm to linger over the region, dumping rain.

While this region is more sparsely populated than the one hit last month, Mozambique’s disaster management agency has said nearly 700,000 people could be at risk from the new cyclone.

Power lines were reported down in some communities, and Pemba city had significant power outages, said Katie Wilkes, spokeswoman with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. “It’s been a challenge for us even to have clear lines of communication.”

While damage assessments are still in the very early stages, “we know this is a very vulnerable area, higher in poverty” than the one hit last month by Cyclone Idai, she said.

The storm had earlier hit the Indian Ocean island nation of Comoros. About 1,000 homes were reportedly flooded and key crops were destroyed, Wilkes said.