April 30, 2019 / 9:15 AM / 3 months ago

As rains break, aid workers rush to reach cyclone victims in Mozambique

MAPUTO, April 30 (Reuters) - Aid workers in northern Mozambique scrambled planes and helicopters packed with aid to communities cut off, sometimes without any supplies, for at least two days after Cyclone Kenneth brought torrential rain to the region.

Kenneth slammed into Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province on Thursday, killing at least 38 people, flattening entire villages and bringing relentless downpours that grounded aid operations and turned streets in the port city of Pemba to rivers.

More rain was expected on Tuesday, and aid workers raced to mobilise before it started again.

A light plane was on its way to Matemo island with medical supplies while a helicopter was moving food and health provisions to the mainland district of Quissanga, the United Nations (U.N.) said via WhatsApp and on Twitter.

After Quissanga, the World Food Programme (WFP) was planning to travel to the island of Ibo, where up to 90 percent of homes were flattened, Deborah Nguyen, WFP spokeswoman, said.

Kenneth, packing storm surges and winds of up to 280 km per hour, devastated villages and islands along a 60-kilometre stretch of coastline in Mozambique’s north. Nearly 35,000 houses have been completely or partially destroyed, the government said, with infrastructure and crops also wrecked.

The death toll is expected to rise further as officials make their way to areas that have not yet been reached. Kenneth has dumped more than 570 millimetres of rain in Pemba and is forecast to bring more.

It struck just six weeks after Cyclone Idai destroyed the port city of Beira, further south, and brought deadly floods, submerging entire villages, vast swathes of land and 700,000 hectares of crops. It killed over 1,000 people across Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

Kenneth has caused the Megaruma river to overflow, prompting flooding in the district of Mecufi, south of Pemba, and five villages, the National Directorate of Water Resources Management said. Water levels in a number of rivers in the north are still climbing.

Rivers in their region are expected to hit their “flood peak” between Tuesday and Thursday, analysis commissioned by Britain’s Department for International Development has estimated.

It also killed four people in the Comoros before smashing into Mozambique, marking the first time on record two powerful storms had hit the country in such a short space of time. (Reporting by Emma Rumney in Johannesburg and Manuel Mucari in Maputo; Writing by Emma Rumney, editing by Ed Osmond)

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