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Cyclone Compounds Mozambique Relief Effort

A Category Four cyclone with wind speeds greater than 200 kilometers-an-hour has come ashore over Mozambique’s Indian Ocean port of Beira. Those tracking the storm, named Favio, say it will continue heading north up the East Africa coast, but strong rains are headed inland toward Zimbabwe. Daniel Bolanos is a member of the International Red Cross FACT, or Field Assessment and Coordination Team that has assembled more than 600 volunteers to assist the most vulnerable people. He says the Red Cross has launched an appeal to care for more than 140-thousand Mozambicans previously displaced by heavy rains and flooding that have plagued Mozambique since January.

“One of the affected provinces because of the flood was the province of Manica. We already have information that it’s raining a lot in this area where there are already 140-thousand people already displaced. So, I think that it could be a very big problem,” he said.

Crops have been severely damaged since January, when the Zambezi River overflowed its banks, and food already is in short supply. International Red Cross volunteers are helping Mozambique’s Red Cross and other NGOs distribute medicine and other non-food items to the most vulnerable people. After a month of flooding across several Southern African countries, including Angola, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland, and Zambia, Daniel Bolanos says the cyclone may make relief workers feel added strains and could likely divert resources from neighboring rain-swollen areas.

“I think we will need additional support to face this situation because this country has been already affected by the floods. The Mozambican Red Cross, with the support of the International Red Cross has been delivering non-food items and water in the province of Sofala so far,Tete, Zambezia, and Manica,” he said.

The port of Beira, which has been the focal point of emergency food deliveries until now, was also in the center of the cyclone’s trajectory as it struck land yesterday. Bolanos says relief workers will have to wait until the storm moves on before they can assess the port’s suitability for continuing food shipments. On the positive side, Bolanos notes that better preparations, including an early warning system instituted by the Red Cross, have resulted in a lower death toll than from flooding that hit Mozambique six years ago.

“I think that the community was prepared, but never expected an impact that this cyclone could have at this moment, and people are not prepared to face a situation like this,” he cautions.

Bolanos points out that on average, cyclones strike Mozambique every two to three years.