Tropical Cyclone Kenneth smashes into the Comoros Islands

The powerful storm is rapidly strengthening as it approaches northern Mozambique and southern Tanzania.

    Tropical Cyclone Kenneth continues to intensify as it moves towards northern Mozambique. It is currently located around 170 kilometres to the west of Comoros having pounded the island chain on Wednesday.

    As Kenneth passed to the north of Comoros, which has a population of around one million people, it was packing sustained winds of around 140km per hour with significantly higher gusts.

    This makes it equivalent to a category-1 Atlantic hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale. Tropical cyclones in this region are rare as they do not tend to form within 10 degrees of the equator because the Coriolis force is not strong enough.

    The Comoros islands are between 11 and 13 degrees south in latitude and have only had three damaging cyclones since 1983. Thus, it is the strongest storm on record to hit the islands.

    By 9:00 GMT, the winds around Kenneth intensified to 230-gusting-to-280km/h, making it equivalent to a category-4 hurricane. It is expected to weaken by the time it makes landfall at around 18:00 GMT on Thursday.

    Landfall is still expected to be close to the city of Quiterajo in the Cabo Delgado province by which time Kenneth will have winds around 180-gusting-to-220km/h.

    This is equivalent to a strong category-3 storm and it will be capable of catastrophic damage. This will be the first time in history that two storms of category-2 strength or higher have hit Mozambique in the same season.

    Rising waters will be a big concern but it is hoped that as the strongest winds and storm surge get pushed towards the south of the storm, the worst of Kenneth's landfall impacts may end up in the sparsely populated Quirimbas National Park region, including the Quirimbas Archipelago.

    Either way, Kenneth will produce huge amounts of rainfall as it reaches the coast and slowly staggers inland. Rainfall totals of 350 to 500mm of rain are widely expected likely. One or two places could exceed 600mm.

    Widespread life-threatening floods and mudslides are likely.

    Southern Tanzania is also on alert and evacuations have taken place. The country has virtually no experience of tropical cyclones with only two on record ever making landfall in Tanzania. The first was an unnamed tropical storm in 1952, and the other was Tropical Depression Atang in 2002.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera