Learning from Cyclone Idai and Cyclone Kenneth to Inform Long-term Disaster Risk Reduction Programming in Mozambique [EN/PT]

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The impacts of Cyclones Idai and Kenneth highlighted the need for far greater investment in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in Mozambique. In March and April of 2019, the two cyclones made landfall in central and northern Mozambique causing widespread destruction, damage, and loss of life from strong winds, rainfall, and ensuing flooding. Cyclone Idai, a category 2 cyclone when it made landfall, was the deadliest storm ever to hit Africa and the largest humanitarian disaster of 2019, causing 1,300 deaths across southeastern Africa. Cyclone Kenneth, which made landfall a month later as a category 4 cyclone with wind gusts of 220 km/h, was the strongest cyclone to ever make landfall in Africa.

Tropical Depression 11, the precursor to Cyclone Idai, brought heavy rains to Mozambique, causing flooding in the Zambezi Valley (Tete and Zambezia Provinces) in early March. The storm however, didn’t stop there. Following an unusual path, it moved back out into the Mozambique Channel, where it rapidly intensified and then returned to land as Cyclone Idai, making landfall near the port city of Beira on March 15. Wind speeds of 180 km/h tore roofs off homes and buildings and pushed a storm surge of up to 6 meters into low-lying residential and agricultural areas. Over the next several days, Idai moved inland and into Zimbabwe, where it released torrential rains that caused downstream rivers in Manica and Sofala provinces in Mozambique to overflow forming an ‘inland ocean.’ While windspeed and landfall were accurately forecasted and warnings disseminated several days ahead of the storm, there was very limited warning about the floods. As a result, the impacts to communities from floodwaters were severe, with sudden flooding forcing people into trees and onto rooftops to escape floodwaters.

On April 25, Cyclone Kenneth made landfall in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, hitting an area already suffering from protracted conflict. While Kenneth weakened as it moved inland, the storm brought high winds, storm surge, heavy rains, and flooding that damaged or destroyed homes, caused power outages, and damaged key transportation routes and bridges across the province.

The government and their partners have focused on development and disaster response with significant successes. However, in the face of growing climate risk, DRR is critical for safeguarding those wins by assuring they aren’t lost to the next extreme event.

"The recent southeastern Africa droughts and the intensity and destructiveness of cyclones Idai and Kenneth are representative of the types of increasing weather challenges expected with climate change. Shifting rainfall patterns, variable temperatures, sea level rise, the intensification of extreme events, and the emergence of new weather hazards in places that were previously safe are the expected consequences of climate change. These impacts are likely to lead to an increase in disaster risk, food insecurity and water shortages, further exacerbating preexisting vulnerabilities."