Saturday 25 May 2019

Disaster strikes twice: 160,000 at risk as floods follow Cyclone Kenneth

 

Under water: A man helps a woman through a flooded neighbourhood in the aftermath of Cyclone Kenneth in Pemba, Mozambique. Far left: A boy takes shelter from the continuing rains.
Photos: Mike Hutchings/Reuters
Under water: A man helps a woman through a flooded neighbourhood in the aftermath of Cyclone Kenneth in Pemba, Mozambique. Far left: A boy takes shelter from the continuing rains. Photos: Mike Hutchings/Reuters

Farai Mutsaka

A second disaster has unfolded in northern Mozambique in the wake of Cyclone Kenneth as raging flood waters killed one person and began to cut off the region's main city from the outside world.

About 160,000 people are at risk, with more torrential rain forecast for the days ahead.

"Help us, we are losing everything!" residents in Pemba city shouted at passing cars as the rushing waters poured into doorways. Women and girls with buckets and pots tried to scoop away the torrent, in vain. Some houses collapsed.

"It's an awful sense of deja-vu," said Nicholas Finney, response team leader with the aid group Save the Children. Kenneth arrived just six weeks after Cyclone Idai ripped into central Mozambique and killed more than 600 people with flooding.

This was the first time in recorded history that the southern African nation has been hit by two cyclones in one season, again raising concerns about climate change.

The new storm's remnants could dump twice as much rain as Idai, the UN World Program has said. Up to 100mm were forecast in the next 24 hours for some parts of the region, according to Mozambique's meteorological institute.

"I have never seen such rains in my life," said one Pemba resident, 35-year-old Michael Fernando.

Residents mourned one death in the Nitate neighbourhood after a brick wall fell on a woman and the waters swept her against another building, said community leader Estenacio Pilale.

Other residents tried to pile up tyres and sand-filled sacks as barricades. Cars began to slip under the waters.

"We will keep moving until we get somewhere safe," one man said, as people fled carrying belongings in plastic bags. Others showed flashes of impatience. "Will this water ever give us a break?" Abdul Carimo asked. "The moment we try to do anything with our lives, it starts again."

Authorities said at least five people died after Kenneth roared in on Thursday evening with the force of a Category Four hurricane, stunning residents of a region where such a storm had not been recorded in modern times.

The government said more than 160,000 people have been affected in the largely rural region, many now exposed and hungry. More than 35,000 homes in parts of Mozambique's northernmost Cabo Delgado were partially or fully destroyed by the storm. More than 23,000 people were in shelters, the government said.

Aid workers trying to reach hard-hit communities outside Pemba yesterday were forced to turn back by rivers that burst their banks, with flood waters reaching the roofs of nearby houses. It was not clear when aid to scores of thousands of people outside the city could be delivered.

"Helicopters cannot fly, a number of flights were cancelled, so humanitarian workers cannot arrive and additional cargo cannot arrive by air," said Mr Finney of Save the Children. He was concerned that the main road to Nampula, an important trucking route, would soon be blocked.

He described "total devastation" affecting a 60km stretch of coastline and nearby islands.

On Saturday, aerial photos showed several coastal communities flattened by the cyclone.

Irish Independent

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