Three days before Cyclone Idai struck, the Mozambican meteorological office, INAM, issued weather alerts as the storm developed. The storm had started in Mozambique with wind speeds of about 105mph, gathering strength in Beira and making its way to neighbouring Malawi and Zimbabwe,
By the time Cyclone Idai got to Zimbabwe it had lost its steam and settled to just rains.
Mozambique was the worst hit. The government raised the alert to the highest possible level, telling people to evacuate threatened areas.
People were moved out by boat beforehand, but many didn’t respond to warnings or weren’t aware of them.
People in lowland areas though warned were reluctant to move because warnings about flooding and rainfall are an annual occurrence during the rainy season. Many of them did not anticipate the extent to which their country suffered.
The extent of Cyclone Idai’s damage
Not surprisingly, the fact that Mozambique is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and extreme weather events such as droughts, floods and cyclones is also changing a number of factors in the background contributing to making the impact of the storms worse.
The number of people dead in Mozambique, as a result of the cyclone, has continuously risen with more and more people being located every hour.
Alerts have been raised over hygiene and safe drinking water with cases of cholera, typhoid and malaria reported in the city of 500,000 people and in surrounding areas.
Many roads have been cut off, restricting access for all emergency responders into the disaster zone and preventing those living in poorer areas of Beira to access safe municipal water supply.
Much of the healthcare infrastructure was also damaged by the cyclone and Ministry of Health is facing a big challenge to get sufficient base-line essential health services running again. MSF is currently re-roofing two health centers in Beira, which will provide medical care for victims.
In some of the only positive news to come out of the usually picturesque African paradise, as the downpour of rain becomes less torrential, several dams that had been planned to be opened to avoid dam collapse may not have to be opened.
At least 56 people died in the floods in Malawi when heavy rains hit before the cyclone was formed. The majority of the Nsanje district, in southern Malawi was hit with flooding as around 16,000 households were affected, according to the national disaster report
Rains have dramatically subsided and access to affected areas is improving but many areas are still submerged and communication services are down.
Many thousands remain in displacement camps and makeshift accommodation like schools and churches as thousands of houses lay collapsed.
The Chimanimani district in the Manicaland Province in Zimbabwe was where Cyclone Idai last hit with intensity before blowing itself out.
At least 259 people in Zimbabwe are thought to have died as a result of the cyclone with latest official figures revealing hundreds more injured and up to 5000 displaced.
The Chimanimani district remains one of the least accessible with many roads completely wiped away for several kilometers. Destruction in the region is on a huge scale and a lack of safe drinking water remains an issue, with many water pipes having been blown away.
Is $350,000 all the African Union can do?
Although there have been some forms of response from African leaders, aid from African countries to Mozambique fade in comparison to what international donors have brought forward.
This also throws the spotlight on the African Union which last week allocated 22.3m Mozambican Metical, an equivalent of $350,000 to cyclone ravaged Mozambique. This allocation has not gotten to the people of Mozambique, one week after the pledge was first made.
The African Union at the time of writing this report had not responded to enquiries from News C
Preparations for the future
Although the frequency rate for the occurrence of tropical cyclones has been reduced, the frequency for high-intensity storms have been heightened. Chances are, a violent storm could just be around the corner.
Critical in helping this largely agricultural country plan for the potentially devastating impacts of weather and climate change to its citizens and economy are accurate weather forecasts and warnings of severe weather, distributed using appropriate channels.
The Mozambique National Institute of Meteorology (INAM) has announced plans to begin a new multi-nationally supported project to modernize and improve meteorological services in the country. This project will enable INAM to increase its skill and expertise to develop a national weather forecasting service and pilot an early-warning severe weather scheme. The project will support INAM to review and develop its long-term strategic plan, including evaluating impact-based forecast and risk-based warning services, and assessing the capacity of weather observation networks. This project, which will run until 2020, will include strong cooperation with other in-country agencies and national projects, to ensure a sustainable approach.