Cyclone brings new flood threat to Mozambique

By Charles Mangwiro

MAPUTO, Feb 20 (Reuters) – Officials warned flood-ravaged Mozambique on Tuesday to brace for a tropical cyclone bearing down on the country, threatening high winds and heavy rains in a region already struggling with disastrous flooding.

Cyclone Flavio was located in the Indian Ocean less than 200 kilometres (125 miles) from the Mozambican Channel and was intensifying, with winds forecast to strengthen to 160 kph (100 mph), the national meteorology agency INAM said.

“We call upon authorities in the provinces of Sofala, Inhambane and Gaza to take preventive measures,” INAM spokesman Acadio Tembe told Radio Mozambique on Tuesday.
Mozambique has already seen more than 100,000 people displaced and 40 killed by serious flooding in the Zambezi river valley, straining disaster relief efforts as officials battle to get food and clean water to people in evacuation shelters.

The government has been operating with only a single helicopter to convey supplies to evacuees cut off by flooding and washed out roads, but officials said on Tuesday they were looking to acquire two more, either through repairing broken aircraft or purchasing the copters second-hand.

“We are in the middle of a flooding scenario here in the central region and a cyclone is threatening to hit the coastal parts, so it’s quite impossible to operate with just one helicopter,” Paulo Zucula, director of Mozambique’s national disaster agency, told Reuters.
Zucula said thus far 120,791 people had been rescued from flooded regions around the Zambezi with 49,105 people placed in temporary evacuation centres.

While moderate rains are expected this week, officials say the country could be hit with much heavier downfalls by the weekend, worsening the existing flood crisis.
The Mozambican government has warned that as many as 285,000 people could be affected if the floods worsen and would need food, aid and other help, while many are already at risk from water-borne disease, malaria and hunger.

Destructive cyclones have hit Mozambique in recent years and played a big role in one of the country’s worst flood disasters in 2000-2001, which killed 7,000 people and made almost half a million homeless.

The U.N. World Food Programme said on Tuesday it plans to buy around 5,000 tonnes of food, mostly maize, within Mozambique to feed people hit by the floods.