The powerful storm made landfall early Thursday at the northern end of Mozambique‘s Quirimbas National Park in the Cabo Delgado province. The area where it made landfall in a “sparsely populated apart from a number of villages with no experience of a storm of this magnitude,” noted Wunderground meteorologist Bob Henson. So far, the storm has been blamed in at least eight deaths.
Pemba, home to some 200,000 people, is the provincial capital in Cabo Delgado. Desperate residents on Sunday tried to block the water with tires and sand-filled sacks. Cars began to slip under the water even as children took refuge in a bus that appeared to be stuck.
“We will keep moving until we get somewhere safe,” the AP quoted one man as saying, as people fled carrying belongings in plastic bags.
Districts beyond Pemba have not been reached yet. Rivers had burst their banks, and flood waters reached the roofs of nearby houses.
“Flood waters are hampering our ability to get out to more remote communities,” Matthew Carter of the Red Cross told The Guardian. “If the situation in Pemba is replicated throughout the north, it’s a major disaster.”
It was not clear when aid to scores of thousands of people outside the city could be delivered.
“Helicopters cannot fly, a number of flights were canceled, so humanitarian workers cannot arrive and additional cargo cannot arrive by air,” Nicholas Finney, response team leader with the aid group Save the Children, told AP. He was concerned that the main road to Nampula, an important trucking route, would soon be blocked.
He described “total devastation” affecting a 37-mile stretch of coastline and nearby islands.
On Saturday, aerial photos showed several coastal communities flattened by the storm.
“Not a single house is standing anymore,” Saviano Abreu, a spokesman with the U.N. humanitarian agency, told reporters.
Residents mourned one death in the Nitate neighborhood after a brick wall fell on a woman and the waters swept her against another building, said community leader Estenacio Pilale.
Earlier five people were killed in Mozambique, including a woman struck by a falling tree in Pemba and another in hard-hit Macomia district. Another person was killed, Mozambique‘s disaster authorities said, but details were were not immediately given, the Associated Press reports.
Two people were killed on Ibo, a tourist island located north of Pemba in Quirimbas National Park and home to about 6,000 people, where 90 percent of homes were “flattened,” Antonio Beleza, spokesman for Mozambique‘s emergency situation institute (INGC) said, according to Agence France-Press.
Katie Wildes, spokesperson with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, told the AP power lines were reported down in some communities, while Pemba city had significant power outages.
“It’s been a challenge for us even to have clear lines of communication,” Wildes said.
Relief has begun to flood into the poverty-stricken country even as heavy rain continues to fall.
U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said in a statement that Cyclone Kenneth may require a “major new humanitarian operation” in one of the world’s poorest nations, noting that this must occur “at the same time that the ongoing Cyclone Idai response targeting 3 million people in three countries remains critically underfunded.”
“The families whose lives have been turned upside down by these climate-related disasters urgently need the generosity of the international community to survive over the coming months,” Lowcock said.
The tropical cyclone came just six weeks after Tropical Cyclone Idai killed at least 600 people in Mozambique alone, making this the only time in recorded history that two tropical cyclones of at least Category 2 strength have hit the country in the same year.
INGC said Wednesday nearly 700,000 people could be affected by the storm.
“We’ve already evacuated 30,000 people from the areas likely to be hit by the cyclone. The compulsory evacuation process will continue until we have all people in secure ground,” INGC spokesperson Paulo Tomas said, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported.
The agency added that it was sending rescue equipment, including boats and helicopters that were still being used in Sofala province for victims of last month’s Tropical Storm Idai, which killed more than 1,000 people in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, and caused at least $2 million in damage, according to Africa News.
Before striking Mozambique, the tropical cyclone swiped the Indian Ocean archipelago nation of Comoros, known locally as Comores, where violent winds caused landslides, flash flooding and cut off roads, Agence France-Presse reported.
In the capital city of Moroni, trees and power lines were downed and motorists were told to stay off the roads.
Jonathan Erdman, senior meteorologist for weather.com, noted that Kenneth is the strongest cyclone to strike this part of Mozambique in recent memory, adding that there is no record of a hurricane-strength tropical cyclone in Cabo Delgado Province in NOAA’s historical database.
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