Insiders Insight: Cyclone Idai extracts heavy toll
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Cyclone Idai extracts a heavy toll
The essentials: Cyclone Idai made landfall near the Mozambican port of Beira on 15 March. While the storm had weakened a bit from its peak of 205 km/h winds, it brought torrential rain and flash floods, impacting Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi. It is estimated that at least 1,000 people have been killed in those three countries.
The context: Tropical cyclones, the analogue to a Hurricane in the northern hemisphere, make landfall regularly in south-east Africa, with Madagascar and Mauritius being the two countries most impacted. Mozambique has experienced major cyclones before, but the last major one to hit the country was cyclone Jokwe in 2008, which resulted in fewer than 20 deaths.
According to the Red Cross, cyclone Idai has destroyed or damaged about 90% of all structures in and around Beira. While wind speeds have died down somewhat, heavy rainfall is expected to last for at least a few more days, complicating rescue missions and leading to more damage and deaths. Idai is already the deadliest natural catastrophe that Mozambique has experienced, including catastrophic flooding in 2000 that killed up to 800 people.
The bad: Mozambique is hit by deadly and destructive floods about every five years, often as the consequence of cyclones or storms. While cyclones like Idai are hard to prepare for, they are a regular appearing phenomenon against which Mozambique’s authorities so far have not developed effective mitigation strategies. Earlier and better warnings and evacuation would save lives, although it would do little to avoid the damage to livelihoods and infrastructure.
The future: While climate change will increase the severity and frequency of storms in some parts of the world, south-east Africa is actually expected to see fewer storms making landfall, at least as long as global warming remains moderate. But while this seems like an unexpected blessing, this will also reduce rainfall further inland, increasing the risk of drought and bad harvests in the region.
- ‘Everything is destroyed’: 850 000 people in danger as Cyclone Idai moves west (Mail & Guardian)
- Cyclone Idai: more than 1,000 feared dead in Mozambique (The Guardian)
- Mozambique cyclone: “90 per cent” of Beira and surrounds damaged or destroyed (International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies)
- Cyclone Idai death toll at 215, Beira city ’90 percent destroyed’ (Al Jazeera)
- Worst Hurricane in a Decade Kills Dozens in Southern Africa (Bloomberg)
- Cyclone Idai: Many dead in Zimbabwe and Mozambique (BBC)
- Impact of climate change: Projected changes in tropical cyclones over the South West Indian Ocean under different extents of global warming (IOPscience)
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