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Cyclone Idai Leaves More Than 750 Dead, Thousands Stranded In Southern Africa

A young girl walks in the water at Mafambisse, about 60km outside of Beira, Mozambique, Tuesday, March 26, 2019. (Themba Hadebe/AP)
A young girl walks in the water at Mafambisse, about 60km outside of Beira, Mozambique, Tuesday, March 26, 2019. (Themba Hadebe/AP)

With Meghna Chakrabarti

Cyclone Idai is one of the worst weather-related catastrophes in the history of Africa. We look at the forecast for a region under the threat of climate change.

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Kate Bartlett, southern Africa correspondent for the German press agency DPA. She just returned from Beira, Mozambique. ( @bartlettkate)

Jennifer Fitchett, senior lecturer in the school of geography, archaeology and environmental studies at the University of Witwatersrand. Her research focuses on climate change and its economic impact. ( @JenFitchett)

Fatema Sumar, vice president of Global Programs at Oxfam. ( @FatemaDC)

From The Reading List

The New York Times: “ Mozambique’s Cyclone: Mapping the Destruction of Idai” — “A tropical cyclone struck Mozambique and several other countries in southern Africa late last Thursday, causing widespread flooding and destruction across the southeast corner of the continent. The port city of Beira in Mozambique was hit hardest, with many homes destroyed.

“At least 242 people have been killed in Mozambique, 139 people in Zimbabwe and 56 people in Malawi, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Aid organizations said those figures could rise drastically as rescuers reach previously inaccessible areas.

“The floodwaters from the cyclone, called Idai, could have reached almost 20 feet deep, according to Matthew Cochrane, a spokesman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Thousands have been displaced by the storm, and President Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique said the death toll there could climb to more than 1,000.

“The storm made landfall about two weeks ago near Quelimane, a city about 190 miles northeast of Beira, as a tropical depression with torrential rain. Wind speeds were only around 40 miles per hour, and after a few days, the storm changed course and moved back into the ocean.”

The Guardian: “ Cyclone Idai crisis deepens as first cases of cholera confirmed in Mozambique” — “The first cases of cholera have been reported in the cyclone-ravaged Mozambican city of Beira, complicating an already massive and complex emergency in the southern African country.

“The announcement of five cases of the waterborne disease follows days of mounting fears that cholera and other diseases could break out in the squalid conditions in which tens of thousands have been living since Cyclone Idai struck on 14 March, killing at least 700 people across the region.

“The first cases of the disease were confirmed in Munhava, one of the poorest areas of the hard-hit port city of Beira, the national director of medical assistance, Ussene Isse, told reporters. The city of roughly 500,000 people is still struggling to provide clean water and sanitation.

“‘We did the lab tests and can confirm that these five people tested positive for cholera,’ said Isse. ‘It will spread. When you have one case, you have to expect more cases in the community.’ ”

Pacific Standard: “ Why Tropical Cyclone Idai Had Such a Devastating Impact” — “Tropical cyclone Idai has made headlines across southern Africa throughout the month of March. Lingering in the Mozambique Channel at tropical cyclone intensity for six days, the storm made landfall in Beira, Mozambique, in the middle of the month, then tracked in a westerly direction until its dissipation.

“The greatest impact of the storm was experienced on landfall. It caused flooding, excessive wind-speed, and storm surge damage in the central region of Mozambique. The adjacent countries of Malawi and Zimbabwe experienced severe rainfall, flooding, and damage from the high wind speeds. Madagascar also experienced bouts of high rainfall during the storm’s pathway to Beira.

“The flooding has left hundreds of thousands of people homeless and displaced across the region while the death toll has continued to rise in the week following landfall. The effects of the cyclone were felt as far south as South Africa and introduced rolling blackouts due to damaged transmission lines that supply the country with 1100 MW of power from Cahora Bassa in northern Mozambique.”

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.