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Mozambique cyclone kills dozens, cuts power to SA

Mar 16 2019 15:24
Matthew Hill and Borges Nhamire, Bloomberg with Fin24

At least 43 people died in central Mozambique and Zimbabwe after a tropical cyclone tore through the southern African nations, knocking out electricity and phone networks and cutting power to South Africa from a hydropower dam.

The storm, the worst to hit Mozambique in at least a decade, had windspeeds of more than 200 kilometers per hour before it made landfall early Friday.

The storm damaged a Mozambican transmission line to South Africa, cutting supplies by 900 MW and worsening an electricity shortage in SA.

Power utility Eskom on Saturday bumped up rotational load shedding from Stage 2 to Stage 4 due to a shortage of capacity exacerbated by the loss of 900 MW from Mozambique Fin24 reported.

Flooding in region affected by the storm had already killed more than 60 people. While the storm has dissipated since crossing over land, there is still heavy rains over Mozambique and eastern Zimbabwe.

At least 19 people died in Mozambique, according to the government, while a further 24 perished in Zimbabwe, state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation reported.

"There has been a lot of damage that we have not yet made the calculation of how much we need to rebuild," said Alberto Mondlane, governor of Mozambique’s worst-hit Sofala province, in comments broadcast over state radio late Friday. "Many homes have been left without a roof."

The storm has already affected 1.5 million people, according to the United Nations.

While Idai was not as intense as comparable storms that ravaged the region in 2008 and 2000, a rapid rise in the amount of people living in the area means that "damages may be worse," said Jennifer Fitchett, a senior lecturer in physical geography at University of the Witwatersrand.

Mozambique’s population has increased by more than two-thirds to 31 million since 2000.

"Tropical cyclone damage is a function not only of the intensity of the storm, but also the population size, level of development, and adaptation that has been implemented," she said in reply to emailed questions. "A decade or more makes a huge difference in terms of the number of people affected."

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