Johannesburg — A powerful tropical cyclone is expected to make landfall by early Friday in northern Mozambique, just six weeks after Cyclone Idai devastated the central part of the country and left hundreds dead.
Mozambique is one of the world’s poorest countries and Cyclone Idai wiped out crops in the southern African nation’s breadbasket on the eve of harvest. Hundreds of thousands of people could face hunger in the months ahead, and a new storm bringing fresh flooding will further complicate efforts to recover.
Cyclone Kenneth could bring heavy rains and flooding to northeastern Mozambique, which was not hit by the earlier storm, and southern Tanzania, which told coastal residents to flee. The Pacific Disaster Center has forecast that landfall will occur north of the Mozambican city of Pemba.
The new cyclone threatens an area of Mozambique where residents are not used to such strong storms, the United Nations humanitarian agency said. That includes Cabo Delgado province, which has seen a rise in deadly militant attacks in recent months.
An overnight arrival of the new cyclone could catch some residents by surprise despite warnings to seek higher ground. Cyclone Idai also roared in overnight, and some residents later said they either had not been aware of authorities’ warnings or didn’t expect the dramatic flooding that followed.
A video posted by Mozambique’s disaster management office showed director Augusta Maita warning residents that the new storm could be as strong as Cyclone Idai.
The U.N. called Idai “one of the deadliest storms on record in the southern hemisphere,” and the arrival of another major storm will again raise concerns about climate change. Low-lying Mozambique’s 1,500-mile Indian Ocean coastline makes the country one of the world’s most vulnerable to global warming’s rising waters.
As it approached Mozambique, Cyclone Kenneth left people in the Indian Ocean island nation of Comoros without power, with some losing their homes. There was no immediate report of any casualties.
In Tanzania, the government told students and workers in the southern regions of Lindi, Mtwara and Ruvuma to stay home but said people living near the coast should evacuate.
The U.N., the Red Cross and other aid organizations were already bracing for what could be another large relief operation, again in mostly rural areas. The U.N. already had expressed concern that its $342 million aid appeal for what will be months of Cyclone Idai relief work in Mozambique and neighboring Zimbabwe is just 24-percent funded .
“Although floodwaters have receded in most areas affected by Cyclone Idai, access is still a challenge as infrastructure was severely compromised,” U.N. World Food Program 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 tons 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.”