Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Cyclone Freddy strikes Mozambique again, leaving one dead


Cyclone Freddy is on track to become the longest-lasting cyclone on record after swirling in the southern Indian Ocean for 34 days. The cyclone has hit Mozambique for the second time in two weeks, killing at least one person and causing damage to houses. It made landfall in the Quelimane district of the central Zambezia province as a tropical cyclone, with a high risk of flooding in Zambezia and neighbouring Nampula province. Water levels at several river basins were already above the alert level. State broadcaster TVM reported that one person died when his house collapsed and that all flights were suspended. The power utility had switched off the electricity completely as a precaution. The port town was locked down ahead of the storm’s landfall. More than half a million people are at risk in Mozambique, notably in Zambezia, Tete, Sofala and Nampula provinces. The cyclone is also expected to hit northeastern Zimbabwe, southeast Zambia and Malawi.

Freddy started sweeping onshore by 10pm local time on Saturday, satellite data showed, after hours of battering the southern African coast with rain. It was the second time the cyclone has struck Mozambique since it was named after being spotted near Indonesia on February 6. At least 27 people died the last time the storm pummelled the region.

The World Meteorological Organization has stated that Freddy is set to become the longest-lasting tropical cyclone on record. The previous record was held by a 31-day hurricane in 1994. After forming off northwestern Australia in the first week of February, Freddy crossed the entire southern Indian Ocean and battered Madagascar from February 21 before reaching Mozambique on February 24. Freddy then headed back towards Madagascar before moving once more towards Mozambique, in what meteorologists have described as a “rare” loop trajectory.

More than 171,000 people were affected when the cyclone swept through southern Mozambique last month, bringing heavy rains and floods that damaged crops and destroyed houses. OCHA has put its death toll at 27 so far — 10 in Mozambique and 17 in Madagascar.

Guy Taylor, a spokesperson for UNICEF, told the AFP news agency that the cyclone had caused “substantial flooding” ahead of its landfall. He noted concern that renewed flooding could exacerbate a cholera outbreak that has killed at least 38 people and infected almost 8,000 since September.

Around the world, climate change is making hurricanes wetter, windier and stronger, scientists say. Oceans absorb much of the heat from greenhouse gas emissions and when warm seawater evaporates, its heat energy is transferred to the atmosphere, fuelling more destructive storms.

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