Cyclone warnings ignored.

Author:Kabukuru, Wanjohi

The toll on life and property caused by Cyclone Idai, especially in Mozambique, was a disaster waiting to happen. Over the years, there have been ample warnings about the fragility of the Mozambican coast and cities like Beira but they have been ignored. Wanjohi Kabukuru describes how poor planning has compounded the damange caused by the cyclone.

'On 14 March 2019 at 23:30 GMT, Tropical Cyclone Idai made landfall in Mozambique's second-largest city of Beira." This was the terse bulletin issued by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) headquarters in Geneva.

For Professor Salomao Bandeira, a marine botanist at the University of Eduardo Mondlane in Maputo, this was the beginning of three days of anguish. His mother, relatives and friends were caught directly in the cyclone's path. While his family got lucky, the stories from other families are painful reminders of what the UN now describes as "possibly the worst ever weather-related disaster to hit the southern hemisphere".

Travelling at speeds estimated by the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS) at 194 km per hour, Tropical Cyclone Idai brought misery to three South Eastern African states--Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

As of mid-April, the official figures from the Mozambican government indicated that 598 people were dead, 1600 were nursing injuries, more than 131,600 had been displaced and were living in temporary shelters, 715,000 hectares of crops were washed away, 112,000 houses destroyed and 90% of Beira destroyed.

Beira is now a shattered city struggling to rebuild its communications infrastructure, power lines, roads and compromised water supplies, with a reported 2094 cases of cholera, accompanied by a humanitarian crisis affecting 2.6 million people.

A high-level UN Economic and Social Council Meeting convened on Cyclone Idai had established that $300m was needed for the humanitarian and reconstruction needs of the affected countries but only $40m was available.

Warnings neglected

Ten days before it hit Mozambique as a cyclone, it was nothing more than a tropical depression crossing through the Mozambican Channel--an area between Mozambique and Madagascar. Long-serving meteorologist and former director at the WMO, Dr Evans Mukolwe, says that it is here at the Mozambican Channel that Idai picked up momentum and sucked in moisture destined for other parts of Africa, due to sea surface temperatures.

Since the calamity serious questions have been asked about...

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