Fears for cyclone-hit communities in Mozambique as rains return

PEMBA, Mozambique (Reuters) – Torrential rain returned to batter northern Mozambique on Tuesday, derailing aid operations and dumping more water on the port city of Pemba just days after it suffered severe flooding from Cyclone Kenneth.

Kenneth slammed into Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province on Thursday, killing at least three people and bringing relentless downpours that turned Pemba’s streets into raging rivers and caused a deadly landslide.

Tuesday’s rain grounded aid operations for a third consecutive day, leaving some of the worst-hit communities cut off with very limited supplies.

A planned World Food Programme flight to the island of Ibo was on stand-by until the weather improved, according to WFP spokeswoman Deborah Nguyen.

“We are really concerned about the situation for people on Ibo island,” she said, as they had been left out in the open after the majority of homes were destroyed, and with very limited food.

“For us it’s a frustrating day… There is not much we can do to reach these islands now,” she said.

National forecasts estimate another 30-50 millimetres (1.18-1.97 inches) of rain could fall in areas across Cabo Delgado and the province of Nampula further south in the next 24 hours – an improvement on previous days. Kenneth has already inundated Pemba with more than 570 millimetres of rain.

A United Nations spokesman posted pictures on Twitter showing parts of the city still submerged in dirty brown water.

During a break in the downpours on Tuesday morning, some aid flights did manage to ferry supplies to the mainland district of Quissanga and the island of Matemo.

LANDSLIDE

The torrential rain also triggered a landslide at a rubbish dump on Sunday that killed at least five people, Pemba Mayor Florete Matarua told local TV channel STV.

The people were all members of the same family and several other houses had also been buried, STV reported.

The death toll was expected to rise as government officials had yet to reach all areas hit by the storm.

Kenneth, packing storm surges and winds of up to 280 km per hour (173 mph), devastated villages and islands along a 60-km (37-mile) stretch of coast in Mozambique’s north. Nearly 35,000 houses have been completely or partially destroyed, the government said, and infrastructure and crops also ruined.

It struck just six weeks after Cyclone Idai destroyed the port city of Beira, further south, and brought deadly floods, submerging entire villages, vast swathes of land and 700,000 hectares (1.74 million acres) of crops. It killed over 1,000 people across Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

Kenneth killed four people in the Indian Ocean island nation of Comoros to the north before barrelling into Mozambique, marking the first time on record two powerful storms had hit the southern African country in such a short space of time.

Since its arrival, the Megaruma river has overflown, prompting flooding in the district of Mecufi, south of Pemba, and five villages, the National Directorate of Water Resources Management said.

Water levels in a number of rivers in the north were still climbing, and expected to reach “flood peak” between Tuesday and Thursday, analysis commissioned by Britain’s Department for International Development has estimated.

Preliminary government assessments suggest 31,000 hectares of crops have been lost in an area already vulnerable to food shortages, and fisheries and other key sources of sustenance like coconut trees were also damaged.

“The short-, mid- and long-term availability of food is worrisome,” senior WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel said in Geneva.