Tens of thousands evacuated as Cyclone Kenneth hits Mozambique – Aljazeera.com
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Tens of thousands evacuated as Cyclone Kenneth hits Mozambique – Aljazeera.com

A powerful tropical cyclone has made landfall in Mozambique, just six weeks after Cyclone Idai devastated the central part of the country and left hundreds dead.

Cyclone Kenneth battered northern Mozambique with sustained winds of up to 220 kilometres per hour late on Thursday after killing three people on the island nation of Comoros overnight.

Impoverished Mozambique is still recovering from the previous powerful storm, which made landfall further south last month, flattening the port city of Beira and killing more than 1,000 people across a vast swath of southeastern Africa.

A spokesman for Mozambique’s National Institute of Disaster Management (INGC) said the government has evacuated more than 30,000 people from areas likely to hit by the cyclone. 

“The compulsory evacuation process will continue until we have all people on secure ground,” said Paulo Tomas.

The INGC said it had supplies ready to assist 140,000 people for 15 days.

The UN World Food Programme said the cyclone was “expected to bring heavy rains in the area, with more than 600 millimetres rainfall expected”.

That volume of rain would be nearly double the 10-days accumulated rainfall that caused flooding in Beira during Cyclone Idai.

Forecasters at Meteo-France warned that Kenneth could trigger waves off Mozambique’s northeastern shore as much as five metres higher than usual.

“I was quite preoccupied by the sea because they announced six metre waves … the wind was very strong, and I’ve never seen anything like it in my 15 years in Pemba”, a Portuguese owner of a lodge on Wimby beach, Anabela Moreira, told AFP news agency.

Another local, Jonas Wazir told AFP that he “noticed that some precarious houses had fallen down”.

‘Weather the storm’

This is the first time in known history that Mozambique has been hit by two cyclones in one season, United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York on Thursday.

The new cyclone threatens an area of Mozambique where residents are not used to such strong storms, the UN humanitarian agency said. That includes Cabo Delgado province, which has seen a rise in deadly armed attacks in recent months.

More than 680,000 people were at risk from the latest storm, according to officials. There were concerns that five rivers and coastal waterways could burst their banks, leading to severe flooding.

In Tanzania, the government told students and workers in the southern regions of Lindi, Mtwara and Ruvuma to stay at home but said people living near the coast should evacuate.

The UN, the Red Cross and other aid organisations were bracing for what could be another large relief operation, again in mostly rural areas.

“Although floodwaters have receded in most areas affected by Cyclone Idai, access is still a challenge as infrastructure was severely compromised,” UN World Food Programme spokesman Herve Verhoosel said in a statement.

“Another storm would be an additional blow for the people of Mozambique and further complicate the response in all areas.”

He said the agency has 300 metric tonnes of “food commodities” already positioned in Mozambique’s northern coastal towns of Palma and Mocimboa da Praia and that its local partner has been told to protect the warehouses to “weather the storm”.

The UN called Cyclone Idai “one of the deadliest storms on record in the southern hemisphere,” and another major storm again raised concerns about climate change.

Cyclone Idai’s effects will be felt for months, if not years.

Even as authorities say a cholera outbreak is being contained, malaria is a growing concern.

More than 14,800 cases have been reported since March 27 in the hard-hit province of Sofala alone, the UN children’s agency said.

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