The death toll in storm-hit northern Mozambique has jumped to 38 after Cyclone Kenneth battered the country last week, according to officials, with aid workers struggling to reach some of the worst-affected areas.
Mozambique’s National Institute of Disaster Management (INGC) announced in its latest update on Monday that an earlier death toll of five had been revised up, adding that about 35,000 homes were damaged or wiped out by the cyclone and the rising floodwaters unleashed in its wake.
The cyclone made landfall on Thursday in the country’s northernmost Cabo Delgado province, bringing with it torrential rains and wind gusts of more than 200 kilometres per hour. The devastation has affected more than 160,000 people to date, according to INGC estimates.
Before battering Mozambique’s shores it slammed into the Comoros, an archipelago off Africa’s southeastern coast, killing four people, according to an update by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
It is the strongest cyclone to ever lash Africa, according to OCHA, with further heavy rain predicted for the coming days.
“Cyclone Kenneth made landfall at the end of the rainy season, when river levels were already high, increasing the risk of river flooding,” the UN agency said in its latest update.
“Humanitarian needs in Mozambique have skyrocketed, and the humanitarian response will need to rapidly scale up,” it added.
Aid efforts hampered by rains
Cyclone Kenneth has further stretched resources in a region still recovering from Cyclone Idai, which struck further south in March, killing hundreds of people and displacing tens of thousands of others from their homes.
Idai destroyed Mozambique’s port city of Beira and submerged entire villages, vast swaths of land and 700,000 hectares of crops. It killed more than 1,000 people across Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.
It is the first time in recorded history that two cyclones have struck Mozambique in a single season, raising concerns about climate change.
The rising waters brought about by the latest storm, meanwhile, have made many roads impassable and hampered aid workers’ efforts to reach communities outside the region’s capital, Pemba, including districts to the north of the city such as Macomia and Quissanga.
Heavy rains on Monday grounded some aid flights for the second day in a row, impeding efforts to reach survivors of the storm, Reuters news agency reported.
However, a brief break in the downpours allowed rescuers to send one helicopter packed with aid to the island of Ibo, off the northern coast of Mozambique, where the cyclone flattened hundreds of homes.
With better weather conditions this morning, and MAF's support, we could lift food & other urgent items to Ibo Island. But it's raining again & this will impact operations during the rest of the day. Check this video with Gemma Connell on #CycloneKenneth response in #Mozambique pic.twitter.com/D0kcQp0zfx
— OCHA Southern & Eastern Africa (@UNOCHA_ROSEA) April 29, 2019
Deborah Nguyen, a communications officer for the UN World Food Programme (WFP), told Al Jazeera from Pemba that downpours were expected to continue throughout the region for the next four days at least.
“We suspect with the [continued] flooding, more people might be displaced,” Nguyen said, adding that officials were expecting twice as much rain with Cyclone Kenneth as that which accompanied Cyclone Idai.
“We are really concerned. The more it rains the more difficult it will be for people to move around and find food,” she added.
Nguyen also said the WFP had deployed two helicopters to Pemba from Beira and Zimbabwe to assist with the delivery of foodstuffs and other emergency supplies to areas now inaccessible by road.
— Déborah Nguyen (WFP) (@deboreve) April 28, 2019
The UN on Sunday announced it had released $13m in emergency funds for Mozambique and the Comoros to provide food and water and repair infrastructure.
“The funds will help in reducing the suffering of the affected people including mitigating the impact on food security caused by the destruction and loss of farmland, livestock and fisheries, in addition to the damage and destruction of homes,” said the UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock.
Additional reporting by David Child: @DavidChild90