A huge storm headed for Mozambique puts country’s fourth largest city at risk

Intense Cyclone Idai is forecast to hit Mozambique on Thursday night having strengthened over the past few days, putting several lives and property at risk. Already, the cyclone has led to at least 10 deaths in Mozambique, according to the United Nations. Idai had strengthened into an intense tropical cyclone on Monday, less than 36 hours after becoming a tropical storm over the warm waters of the Mozambique Channel.

“Idai is now expected to strike central Mozambique on Thursday night or Friday,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls.

Nicholls anticipates that Idai may weaken a little prior to landfall, but advised residents not to let their guards down. “Idai may still be an intense tropical cyclone at landfall,” he said.

According to AccuWeather, the American weather forecasting service, rain and wind may start to increase along the coast of central Mozambique late Wednesday night or Thursday before the worst of the storm rages around Friday.

Source: AccuWeather

Idai can slam onshore with destructive winds and flooding rain in the vicinity of Beira, the fourth largest city in Mozambique where the Pungwe River meets the Indian Ocean.

“The most dire situation for Beira would unfold if Idai makes landfall just to the north of the city, resulting in the highest amount of water piling up around the mouth of the Pungwe River. Storm-surge flooding may also spread farther up the river, inundating homes and businesses,” AccuWeather notes.

Tracking the path of the storm, AccuWeather notes that flooding downpours will spread throughout the interior of central Mozambique and into eastern Zimbabwe from Friday into this weekend.

Mozambique ranks third among African countries most exposed to multiple weather-related hazards. The southern African country suffers from periodic cyclones, droughts, floods, and related disasters. When Cyclone Chedza hit in 2015, 140 people died with losses totaling $861 million recorded. The costs of the 2013 and 2000 floods were estimated at almost $517 million and 450 million respectively. Response to these crises placed unexpected pressure on public finances, exacerbating an upward debt trajectory for a country that has now descended into a serious debt crisis.

Source: Forbes/Statista

However, the Government of Mozambique has taken key steps to advance disaster risk management (DRM) in the country and improve climate resilience, enjoying support from different agencies, including the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) and the World Bank.

According to the World Bank, over half of Mozambique’s population is vulnerable to climate-related shocks and the impacts of disasters on the country‚Äôs budget and economy are sizable. Assets worth approximately 37 percent of GDP are exposed to two or more natural hazards, which translates into 1.1 percent annual average loss in GDP.

Despite the government’s efforts to anticipate and build climate resilience, no country can fully prepare for a catastrophic storm. Sadly, such huge storms will appear more often in a changing climate. Idai became a tropical storm when it hit the warm waters of Mozambique; hurricanes gain energy from warmer ocean waters. Natural disasters like this remind the world of the need to do more to reduce global warming.