Learning from Cyclone Idai to strengthen Climate Information and Early Warning Services in Zimbabwe

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On 15 March 2019, Cyclone Idai made landfall near the port city of Beira, Mozambique. As the storm crossed Mozambique and moved inland, it released heavy rains across much of eastern Zimbabwe. In some areas, the rainfall intensity was beyond anything previously experienced, resulting in unexpected and catastrophic landslides and flash flooding. Chimanimani district, where the heaviest rainfall occurred, and Chipinge district suffered the most damage from the storm with flooding and landslides causing widespread destruction and loss of life. The flooding, flash flooding, and landslides caused at least 634 deaths and over 300 people remain missing 10 months after the event. Floodwaters swept an unknown number of bodies into neighboring areas of Mozambique; at least 82 bodies have been found as far as 40 km from the border. In total, the storm impacted an estimated 270,000 Zimbabweans.

In Chimanimani and Chipinge Districts, the rains began on 14 March and continued day and night for days. However, the majority of the landslides occurred around 9 pm on 15 March, triggered by a deluge lasting approximately 30 minutes. The rains also caused the Nyahonde River to burst its banks and to inundate numerous nearby communities washing away homes, destroying crops, and damaging key transportation infrastructure. Damage to bridges and roads isolated many residents and communities for weeks.