JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Cyclone Freddy displaced hundreds of people after battering central Mozambique on Sunday after making landfall for the second time in a month, breaking records for the duration and strength of tropical storms in the southern hemisphere.
Communications and electricity were cut off in the area of the storm, and the extent of the damage and the number of victims was not clear. At least one person was killed in Kilimani on Saturday when his house collapsed as the wild storm swept through.
More than 171,000 people were affected after the cyclone tore through southern Mozambique last month, killing 27 people in Mozambique and Madagascar. More than half a million people are at risk of being affected in Mozambique this time, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
State television reported that hundreds were displaced across the path of the storm. It added that more than 650 houses were destroyed in Maromeo district while more than 3,000 people in Sofala district were affected by the floods.
Satellite data showed that after passing the port city of Quelimani, the storm continued inland toward the southern tip of neighboring Malawi.
However, the national electricity company Electricidade de Moçambique said that by mid-afternoon, electricity had been restored in most regions, with the exception of Milange, Lugela, Maganja da Costa, Namanjavira and parts of Mocuba City.
“The wind was very strong at night … there was a lot of destruction, trees fell, roofs were blown off,” Guy Taylor, Mozambique’s head of advocacy, communications and partnerships, told Reuters by satellite phone from Quelimani. He did not have any information yet about the losses or the numbers of the displaced.
“It is likely to be a major disaster and additional support will be needed,” Taylor said, adding that heavy rains were continuing.
Authorities in Malawi are preparing for the passage of the cyclone near the landlocked country’s southern tip by evening, bringing heavy rains and flooding, the Department of Meteorology and Climate Change Resources said in a statement.
A Zoom Earth satellite map outlining the likely path of the cyclone shows it will fade near the Malawi border as it moves inland at around 2.00am (0000GMT) on Tuesday.
Two weeks ago, 27 people died when the storm first made landfall, after it was first seen near Indonesia on February 6.
After circling for 35 days, Freddy likely broke the record for longest-lasting tropical cyclone, with the previous record held by a hurricane lasting 31 days in 1994, according to the World Meteorological Organization.
It also set a record for the highest accumulated hurricane energy, a measure of storm strength over time, of any Southern Hemisphere storm in history, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Scientists say climate change is making hurricanes stronger. The oceans absorb a lot of heat from greenhouse gas emissions, and when warm sea water evaporates, its heat energy is transferred to the atmosphere, creating more destructive storms.
Additional reporting by Tim Cox in Johannesburg. Additional reporting by Manuel Mucari in Maputo and Frank Ferry in Blantyre. Editing by Raisa Kasulowski and David Holmes
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