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Cyclone Favio Strikes Central Mozambican Coast

A tropical cyclone with winds of more than 200 kilometers per hour has struck central Mozambique. The storm is hindering efforts by relief workers to care for thousands of people displaced by weeks of floods and has raised fears of new flooding. VOA's Scott Bobb reports from our Southern Africa Bureau in Johannesburg.

Cyclone Favio struck the Mozambican coast before dawn, ripping roofs off of buildings and uprooting trees near the tourist town of Vilankulos, 600 kilometers northeast of Maputo.

Mozambican disaster relief officials said heavy rain and strong winds were lashing the coast several hundred kilometers up and down the coast, from Xai-Xai to Beira.

The secretary-general of the Mozambican Red Cross, Fernanda Texeira, said the storm was likely to head north threatening a region already saturated by flooding.

"We are expecting more rain and this can affect the areas that are already damaged by the floods," she said.

She said the waters behind the Cahora Bassa Dam had crested this week, allowing officials to reduce the amount of water being released into the Zambezi River Basin below.

As a result, relief efforts had shifted from evacuation to providing for the 120,000 people who have been displaced by the floods.

"Now we need very quickly to improve the life [living] conditions in the accommodation centers and to prepare the resettlement of the populations," she said. "Sanitation and health are a big concern."

She added that food was the other major concern. Thousands of hectares of farmland were destroyed by the floods months before the harvest.

The World Food Program says it has distributed several hundred tons of food stockpiled in the area before the crisis. But it said it was running out of stocks and appealed for more donations.

The U.N. Childrens Fund said it was concerned about the mental welfare of tens of thousands of children living in makeshift shelters and said it is setting up schools under tents in the camps.

Mozambican officials compared the disaster to floods six years ago that killed 700 people and displaced one half million.

But they said better preparation meant that only several dozen lives have been lost, although they predicted one quarter million people could be made homeless if the flooding continues.