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Southern Hemisphere’s Worst Weather Disasters Ever, Claims UN On Cyclone Idai

"We have also called on South African companies to donate for humanitarian assistance and following this morning's assessment, we'll make a further announcement for how we'll assist going forward," he said Tuesday.

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Family members dig for their son, who got buried in the mud when Cyclone Idai struck in Chimanimani about 600 kilometers southeast of Harare, Zimbabwe, March 19, 2019. VOA

Cyclone Idai may be one of the worst weather disasters ever recorded in the southern hemisphere, U.N. experts say, with Mozambique suffering the brunt of the storm.

Idai tore across Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe late last week, leaving behind a trail of devastation, including more than 350 people killed, hundreds missing, and hundreds of thousands homeless.

Mozambique’s death toll exceeded 200 Tuesday, President Filipe Nyusi said, after saying earlier the final number of dead could top 1,000.

Officials say the cyclone created an “inland ocean” across the country.

Soldiers and paramedics carry injured people from a helicopter in Chimanimani, about 600 kilometers southeast of Harare, Zimbabwe, March, 19, 2019.
Soldiers and paramedics carry injured people from a helicopter in Chimanimani, about 600 kilometers southeast of Harare, Zimbabwe, March, 19, 2019. VOA

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies called the damage to the coastal city of Beira “massive and horrifying.” They estimate 90 percent of the city was destroyed.

Rescue workers were dropping food, fresh water, and blankets to flood victims stranded on roofs, treetops, and any high piece of land. Airdrops are the only way to help most people in Beria, where roads are under water and communications gone.

Mozambique-based UNICEF spokesman Daniel Timme told VOA via Skype Tuesday officials are still getting details on the impact of the storm.

“At the moment, we still don’t have the full picture of the situation, but we agree with the assessment of the government that the disaster is of a dimension which is much, much bigger than we thought in the beginning,” he said. “This is due to the fact that information was coming in very slowly, because the city of Beira had been cut off of all communication lines and still is, and has also been cut off physically because the roads to Beira are destroyed.”

FILE - Drone footage shows destruction after Cyclone Idai in the settlement of Praia Nova, which sits on the edge of Beira, Mozambique, March 18, 2019.
Drone footage shows destruction after Cyclone Idai in the settlement of Praia Nova, which sits on the edge of Beira, Mozambique, March 18, 2019. VOA

​Timme says UNICEF is appealing to international donors for more than $20 million to support its response in the three affected countries.

“We are at the same time actually preparing to supply people with the most urgent things. What is very important in such situations is the supply of safe drinking water, so we will be supplying water purification pills.”

South Africa sent a military force to Mozambique to help with the rescue and recovery. International relations spokesman, Ndivhuwo Mabaya, tells VOA South Africa will try to do more.

“We have also called on South African companies to donate for humanitarian assistance and following this morning’s assessment, we’ll make a further announcement for how we’ll assist going forward,” he said Tuesday.

In Zimbabwe, the death toll stood at 98 Tuesday. One local government official says bodies from Zambia have been flowing on the river into neighboring Mozambique.

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Malawi’s government put the death toll in that country at 56 with nearly 600 people suffering from storm-related injuries.

The European Union announced Tuesday it is sending an initial $4 million in aid to the three devastated countries. Britain has also pledged a separate aid package and the U.S. embassy in Zimbabwe said it is “mobilizing to provide support,” without giving any details. (VOA)

Next Story

Here’s how Climate Change Has Affected Livelihood in Africa

Inescapable Effects of Climate Change Jeopardize Livelihoods Across East Africa

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Africa Climate crisis
People cross a bridge broken by heavy rains that caused landslides, in the village of Sebit, West Pokot County, Kenya, Africa. VOA

By Rael Ombuor

As the Earth heats up, weather and climate patterns are changing dramatically around the globe. Africa felt the effects of those changes in 2019, experiencing cyclones, droughts and unstoppable rains that jeopardized livelihoods.

Sixty-two-year-old David Kemboi sorts out dry maize stalks on his 21-hectare farm in Kenya’s Trans Nzoia County.

He turns the stalks of what could have been a bountiful harvest into silage — for feeding his 15 herd of cattle.

He said the heavy rains that have rocked different parts of Eastern Africa cause the crops to fail.

“At the time of growing crops we expected optimum yields, we had invested heavily on all the crops that we grew, but unfortunately, we were not able to get a good harvest out of all that, which means a lot of money was just thrown to the dogs.  We didn’t get anything out of that and we do not expect to get anything elsewhere other than from this land because we depend on rain-fed agriculture,” he said.

Trans Nzoia county where Kemboi settled after retirement in 2017 is known for growing predominantly maize, Kenya’s staple food.

Apart from the excessive rain, farmers in the area have faced pests and disease challenges.

“Every time we go to harvest the maize, there is rain and when it gets wet, it gets spoiled very quickly. That one has had adverse effects in growing of maize and also in beans. Beans, the first crop we didn’t have any harvest at all. It all went bad because of these heavy rains,” said Kemboi.

Widespread flooding

Millions of people have been displaced as a result of widespread flooding this year across large parts of Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan and Ethiopia.

The floods have led to hundreds of deaths. In November, South Sudan declared a state of emergency in 27 affected areas with close to a million people affected.

The Kenya Meteorological Department attributes the rains to an irregularity known as Indian Ocean dipole, an oscillation of surface temperature of the sea, which brings weather extremes to countries neighboring the Indian Ocean.

Benard Chanzu is the deputy director of Kenya’s Meteorological services.  He said nearly all of Kenya has received above-average rainfall this year.

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People stand on debris blocking a highway after River Muruny burst its bank following heavy rains in Parua village, about 85 km northeast of Kitale, in West Pokot county, western Kenya, Africa. VOA

“In some stations, I can quote like Meru stations, we have seen records which are showing that what has been received is more than 200 percent of the long term average, that is what is usually received in the area,” said Chanzu.

More extreme weather ahead

With levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere climbing to new highs, Dr. John Recha, a scientist specializing in climate and agriculture research, said Africans can expect more extremes in years to come.

“We will therefore have more effects of climate change affecting the weather patterns specifically the rainfall patterns, climate change will be more intense and therefore the climate variability that is having these extreme events of the droughts and the floods will be more frequent and more intense going into the future,” he said.

Also Read- Southeast Asian Activists Pressurize Regional Govts to Offer Climate Action Plan

The solution for Kemboi and other farmers, according to experts like Recha, lies on adapting to climate change.

That, he said, would require help from government and agencies to implement new agricultural practices such as alternative irrigation methods and efficient water storage for farmers. (VOA)