Cyclone Idai

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Intense Tropical Cyclone Idai
Intense tropical cyclone (SWIO scale)
Category 3 tropical cyclone (SSHWS)
Idai 2019-03-14 1135Z.jpg
Idai approaching Mozambique shortly after peak intensity on 14 March
Formed4 March 2019
Dissipated21 March 2019
(Remnant low after 16 March)
Highest winds10-minute sustained: 195 km/h (120 mph)
1-minute sustained: 205 km/h (125 mph)
Gusts: 280 km/h (175 mph)
Lowest pressure940 hPa (mbar); 27.76 inHg
Fatalities762 total[nb 1][nb 2]
(possibly >1,000 total)[4]
DamageUnknown
Areas affectedMozambique, Malawi, Madagascar, Zimbabwe
Part of the 2018–19 South-West Indian Ocean cyclone season

Intense Tropical Cyclone Idai (/ˈɪd/) is regarded as one of the worst tropical cyclones on record to affect Africa and the Southern Hemisphere as a whole. The long-lived storm caused catastrophic damage in multiple nations, leaving more than 700 people dead and hundreds more missing.[5] In the Southern Hemisphere, its death toll is comparable to that of the 1892 Mauritius cyclone, the 1903 French Polynesia cyclone, the 1927 Madagascar cyclone, and Cyclone Leon–Eline in 2000.[6][7]

The tenth named storm and record-breaking eighth intense tropical cyclone of the 2018–19 South-West Indian Ocean cyclone season, Idai originated from a tropical depression that formed off the east coast of Mozambique on 4 March. The storm, Tropical Depression 11, made landfall in Mozambique later in the day and remained a tropical cyclone through its trek over land. On 9 March, the depression re-emerged into the Mozambique Channel and was upgraded into Moderate Tropical Storm Idai next day. Idai then began a stint of rapid intensification, reaching an initial peak intensity as an intense tropical cyclone with winds of 175 km/h (110 mph) on 11 March. Idai then began to weaken due to ongoing structural changes within its inner core, falling to tropical cyclone intensity. Idai's intensity remained stagnant for about a day or so before it began to re-intensify. On 14 March, Idai reached peak intensity with maximum sustained winds of 195 km/h (120 mph) and a minimum central pressure of 940 hPa (27.76 inHg). Idai then began to weaken as it approached the coast of Mozambique due to less favourable conditions. On 15 March, Idai made landfall near Beira, Mozambique, as an intense tropical cyclone, subsequently weakening into a remnant low on 16 March. On 19 March, Idai's remnants re-emerged into the Mozambique Channel, and dissipated on 21 March.[8][9]

Idai brought strong winds and caused severe flooding in Madagascar, Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe, that has killed 762 people – 446 in Mozambique, 259 in Zimbabwe, 56 in Malawi, and one in Madagascar – and affected more than 2.6 million others. Catastrophic damage occurred in and around Beira in southern Mozambique. The President of Mozambique stated that more than 1,000 people may have died in the storm.[4] A major humanitarian crisis unfolded in the wake of the cyclone, with hundreds of thousands of people in urgent need of assistance across Mozambique and Zimbabwe. In the former nation, rescuers were forced to let people die in order to save others.[10]

Meteorological history[edit]

Map plotting the track and the intensity of the storm, according to the Saffir–Simpson scale

Cyclone Idai originated from an elongated circulation that the Météo-France office on Réunion (MFR) began monitoring on 1 March. At that time, it was in the Mozambique Channel and was moving west-southwest, towards Africa's east coast.[11] The MFR continued to track the system over the next couple of days as it developed strong deep convection.[12] On 4 March, the MFR stated that Tropical Depression 11 had formed off the east coast of Mozambique.[13] The depression slowly moved westward, making landfall in Mozambique later in the day.[14] The system retained its status as a tropical cyclone through its existence over land. Shortly after landfall, the system turned to the north. Over the next few days, tropical Depression 11 performed an eastward loop near the border of Malawi and Mozambique,[15] before turning eastward and re-emerging into the Mozambique Channel.[16] On 8 March, at 22:00 UTC, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) issued a tropical cyclone formation alert (TCFA), noting a consolidating low-level circulation center and that the system was in a favourable environment with low wind shear and sea surface temperatures of 30 °C (86 °F) to 31 °C (88 °F).[17]

Tropical Depression 11 moving ashore in Mozambique on 4 March

On 9 March, the JTWC issued its first warning on the system, classifying it as Tropical Cyclone 18S.[18] At 00:00 UTC on 10 March, the MFR upgraded the system to a moderate tropical storm and designated it as Idai, after an increase in organised convection and the development of banding features occurred.[19] Idai then began a period of rapid intensification, with the MFR upgrading it to tropical cyclone status by 18:00 UTC. At the same time, the JTWC upgraded it to the equivalent of a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir–Simpson scale.[20] Additionally, the strengthening of a subtropical ridge to the southwest and the weakening of the Intertropical Convergence Zone to the north resulted in a decrease in forward motion.[21] Around 12:00 UTC on 11 March, Idai reached its initial peak intensity as an intense tropical cyclone with 10-minute maximum sustained winds of 175 km/h (110 mph). At that time, the MFR reported that the internal structure of the cyclone had improved, with an eye visible in infrared imagery.[22] Meanwhile, the JTWC estimated 1-minute winds of 195 km/h (120 mph), the equivalent of a Category 3 hurricane.[23]

Soon after, Idai began a weakening trend as it entered an eyewall replacement cycle and experienced dry air entanglement.[24] It was also noted that Idai was tracking towards the southwest, under the increasing influence of the subtropical ridge.[25] On 12 March at 06:00 UTC, Idai bottomed out at tropical cyclone status with 10-minute winds of 130 km/h (80 mph). At that time, the MFR noted that Idai had a poorly defined eye as the eyewall replacement was still underway.[26] Over the next day, Idai's intensity changed very little due to ongoing structural changes within its inner core. At the same time, Idai began to travel in a westerly direction.[27] By 18:00 UTC on 13 March, Idai had developed a large eye and taken on the characteristics of an annular tropical cyclone.[28] Six hours later, Idai reached peak intensity with 10-minute maximum sustained winds of 195 km/h (120 mph) and a minimum central pressure of 940 hPa (27.76 inHg).[29] At that time, the JTWC also reported Idai had reached peak intensity, with 1-minute sustained winds of 205 km/h (125 mph).[30] Soon after, Idai began to weaken due to lower sea surface temperatures and vertical wind shear as it neared the coast of Mozambique.[31]

At 00:00 UTC on 15 March, the MFR reported that Idai had made landfall near Beira, Mozambique, with 10-minute sustained winds of 165 km/h (105 mph).[32] Shortly afterward, the JTWC issued its final warning on Idai, stating that the cyclone had diminishing eyewall convection and warming cloud tops.[33] Idai quickly weakened after landfall; at 06:00 UTC that day, the MFR declared that Idai had degenerated into an overland depression, with gale-force winds as it continued to move inland.[34] Six hours later, the MFR issued its last warning on Idai. At that time, it was forecast that Idai's circulation would persist for several more days, and would drop heavy rainfall throughout the region during that time.[35] The MFR continued to monitor Idai for the next few days, with Idai degenerating into a remnant low late on 16 March. On 17 March, the MFR noted that only a wide clockwise circulation remained over eastern Zimbabwe, though rain from Idai's remnant was still affecting the entire region.[36] On the same day, Idai's remnants turned eastward once again, eventually re-emerging into the Mozambique Channel a second time on 19 March.[37] Idai's remnants encountered unfavourable conditions and rapidly weakened afterward, dissipating late on 21 March over the Mozambique Channel.[8][9]

Impact[edit]

Deaths and damage by country[nb 3]
Nation Fatalities Missing Injuries Affected Damage
(2019 USD)
Madagascar 1 2 0 1,100 N/A
Malawi 56 3 577 922,900 N/A
Mozambique 446[nb 4] N/A >1,611 1,700,000 N/A
Zimbabwe 259 >217 >200 250,000 N/A
Totals: 762 >222 >2,388 2,874,000

Idai caused severe flooding throughout Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe resulting in at least 733 deaths. More than 2.8 million people experienced the direct effects of the cyclone, with hundreds of thousands in need of assistance.[38]

First landfall[edit]

Mozambique[edit]
Flooding in Tete, Mozambique, inundated numerous houses after Idai made its first landfall

Flooding from the precursor depression began in Mozambique on 6 March, primarily affecting north-central provinces. The Niassa, Tete and Zambezia provinces were affected, the latter being hardest-hit.[39] Flooding from the tropical depression killed 66 people and injured 111 more. It was reported that 5,756 homes were destroyed, while another 15,467 homes were affected. Additionally, eight hospitals and 938 classrooms were destroyed. The floods also ruined 168,000 hectares (420,000 acres) of crops.[1]

Malawi[edit]

As a tropical depression, Idai brought torrential rains to southeastern Malawi. These areas saw above-average rainfall in January, enhancing the risk for floods.[40] Widespread flooding began on 9 March, washing out bridges, roads, and destroying numerous homes.[41] Fourteen districts experienced direct effects from the storm,[40] with Nsanje and Phalombe being hardest-hit.[39] Rising waters overwhelmed flood mitigating infrastructure, causing dams to collapse. Approximately 1,400 homes were destroyed in Blantyre.[40] Two hydroelectric power plants along the Shire River suffered damage and were taken offline, rendering a loss of 270 MW of Malawi's 320 MW hydroelectric power capacity.[42]

The disaster directly affected 922,900 people nationwide[43]–an estimated 460,000 being children–125,382 of whom were displaced or rendered homeless.[42] A total of 56 people were killed and 577 others were reported injured as a result of flooding.[44][45] A further three people are reported missing.[46]

Madagascar[edit]

While over the Mozambique Channel, the system brought heavy rains to northwestern Madagascar, with localised accumulations of approximately 400 mm (16 in). Flooding and mudslides in Besalampy killed one, left two missing, and affected 1,100 others, and damaged 137 homes.[47][48] Widespread damage occurred to homes, hospitals and schools. Numerous electricity and telephone wires were damaged or destroyed.[49]

Second landfall[edit]

On 15 March, Idai made landfall for a second time, just north of Beira, Mozambique.

Mozambique[edit]
Satellite image revealing severe flooding of the Buzi River after Idai hit the area

Cyclone Idai wrought catastrophic damage across a large swath of central and western Mozambique. Destructive winds devastated coastal communities and flash floods destroyed inland communities in what the World Meteorological Organization termed "one of the worst weather-related disasters in the southern hemisphere".[50] At least 380 people were killed from the combined effects of flooding and wind.[2] In Beira, airborne debris caused numerous injuries;[51] in some instances, sheet metal from roofs decapitated people.[52] More than 1,500 people were treated for storm-related injuries, primarily from airborne debris, in hospitals across Beira.[4] An estimated 1.7 million people were affected by the cyclone.[53]

Striking Mozambique near Beira, Idai produced a storm surge of 4.4 m (14 ft) in the city. Coupled with torrential rains, disastrous flooding ensued in the region.[48] Officials called the extensive flooded areas "an inland ocean"[54] visible even from outer space.[55] More than 500,000 people in the city, the majority of the population, lost power.[56] Rainfall in the city exceeded 200 mm (8 in), while the heaviest totals of more than 600 mm (24 in) fell near Chimoio.[48] As of 19 March, 100,000 people were reported as requiring rescue in the Beira area.[57] The IFRC reported that 90% of the area in Beira was totally destroyed.[58] Communications in the city were crippled and all roads out were rendered impassable. All 17 of the city's hospitals and health centers suffered damage.[46] The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies described damage in the region as “massive and horrifying" and the President of Mozambique stated that over 1,000 people may have died. Bodies were found floating in floodwaters in Beira days after the storm hit.[4]

A tsunami-like wave of water devastated Nhamatanda, sweeping many people to their deaths and destroying the town. People scrambled to rooftops in order to survive.[10] Days after landfall, the Buzi and Pungwe rivers in central Mozambique overtopped their banks.[59] On 17 March rivers in western provinces of Mozambique were hit with floodwaters from rising rivers. President Filipe Nyusi stated "whole villages [disappeared]" along the Buzi and Pungwe banks.[60] The city of Búzi continued to flood as of 20 March, placing its 200,000 residents at high-risk.[61] On 19 March, a 50 km (31 mi) section of the Buzi remained flooded.[57] Thousands of people remained trapped on rooftops four days after Idai made landfall.[62] Floodwaters estimated to be 6 m (20 ft) submerged entire communities.[53] On 23 March, the UN warned that the Buzi and Zambezi rivers might flood again.[63]

Zimbabwe[edit]
Residents searching for a victim after Idai triggered a landslide in Chimanimani District, Zimbabwe

Heavy rains fell across much of eastern Zimbabwe as the cyclone meandered along the nation's border with Mozambique. The heaviest rains fell in the Chimanimani District, with accumulations reaching 200–400 mm (8–20 in).[48] Widespread flash flooding ensued, claiming at least 259 lives,[3] with more than 217 people missing as of 20 March.[10] At least 200 people were injured.[64] An estimated 250,000 people were affected by the storm. According to a report by United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, approximately 500 people in the Rusitu Valley in the Chimanimani District are missing.[65]

The Chimanimani and Chipinge districts saw extensive damage with widespread flash flooding. The Nyahonde River burst its banks and inundated numerous communities. Destruction of numerous bridges and roads in eastern Chimanimani isolated many residents.[66] In the town of Chipinge, 600 houses have been destroyed and 20,000 damaged.[57] On 19 March, water overtopped the Marowanyati Dam in Murambinda along the Mwerahari River.[64]

Aftermath[edit]

Local aid and response[edit]

Volunteers help deliver the aid to those affected by Idai in Chimanimani District, Zimbabwe

Malawi President Peter Mutharika declared a state of emergency for affected districts on 8 March prompting mobilisation of the Malawian Defence Force.[41][40][42] The government estimated $16.4 million was needed to ease the effects of damage due to flooding.[67] Initial estimated placed the number of people in urgent need of aid at 120,000, primarily in the Chikwawa, Nsanje, Zomba, Mulanje, Phalombe, and Mangochi districts. With the support of the Danish Red Cross, the Malawi Red Cross Society provided K18 million (US$25,000) worth of supplies to displaced persons on 11 March.[68] On 11 March, the Malawi Revenue Authority provided K21 million (US$29,000) worth of supplies–in the form of 7.5 tonnes of maize flour, 500 bales of sugar, and 20 tonnes of salt–and gave a monetary donation of K2 million (US$3,000).[69] Local officials established 187 evacuation camps while churches and schools were utilised as makeshift shelters. However, these lacked adequate capacity and many people were forced to sleep in the open. Through 18 March, large portions of Chikwawa and Nsanje districts remained inaccessible by land; helicopters and boats were utilised to deliver supplies to these areas.[42]

Following the first round of flooding in Mozambique, the government requested 1.1 billion meticais (US$17.6 million) to provide aid for flood victims.[70]

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared a state of emergency soon after the storm and deployed the National Army and Air Force. A command center was established in Harare by 17 March to co-ordinate rescue and relief efforts. Persistent heavy rain, continued flooding, and mudslides hampered relief efforts, leaving many residents stranded without assistance. Harare Councilor Jacon Mafume called the event a "serious humanitarian crisis" and called upon the state for "intervention on a massive scale to avoid biblical disaster".[66] The Government of Zimbabwe allocated $RTG 50 million for emergency response and reconstruction. Medical supplies were sent to Mutare; however, damaged infrastructure hampered distribution. Residents established collection centers in Bulawayo and Harare.[64] Mnangagwa declared that Zimbabwe would begin two days of mourning for victims of the cyclone on 23 March.[71]

"Sometimes we can only save two out of five, sometimes we drop food and go to someone else who's in bigger danger... We just save what we can save and the others will perish."

Ian Scher, head of Rescue South Africa[10]

The magnitude of the humanitarian crisis overwhelmed rescuers. In many instances, victims had to be abandoned in fatal conditions in order to save others in more dire need.[10] The National Disasters Management Institute, normally considered capable of handling disasters in Mozambique, could not cope with the scale of the disaster. The agency deployed boats and helicopters to save residents. Inadequate assistance left thousands of victims stranded in trees and on rooftops five days after the cyclone hit. Beira remained largely inaccessible through 20 March with infrastructure devastated and floodwaters yet to recede.[61] The Mozambique Minister of Land and Environment, Celso Correia, stated on 21 March that an estimated 15,000 people still required rescue.[72] Some affected areas remain difficult to reach as of 22 March, including Chimanimani in Zimbabwe.[73] On 22 March, an estimated 65,000 people in Mozambique were reported to have taken refuge in 100 shelters, often in extremely poor conditions,[74] and on 23 March this number had increased to a little under 90,000.[63] It was reported on 23 March that many local emergency centers in Mozambique had only recently been supplied with food, and some areas remained cut off.[63]

United Nations[edit]

In Malawi, UNICEF provided various sanitary supplies to residents in Chikwawa, Mangochi, Nsanje, and Phalombe. These included hygiene kits, filtered water bottles, soap, packets of oral rehydration solution, antibiotics for children, and insecticide-treated bednets. Additional supplies were sent to regional hospitals. The agency assessed a long-term need of $8.3 million to assist women and children.[43]

In the immediate aftermath of Idai, UNICEF estimated that about $10 million was required for the most urgent needs of children in Mozambique.[75] The United Nations and their partners appealed for $40.8 million as an emergency relief to help those people who were affected by Idai in Mozambique.[76] The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) scrambled to airdrop high-energy biscuits and easy-to-cook food to isolated villages. On 20 March the WFP airlifted 20 tons of food from Dubai to the region. An Mi-8 transport helicopter contracted through the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service was brought in the same day, with two more expected to be flown in.[77] By 22 March, a total of US$20 million had made available from the UN's emergency fund,[74] and the UN Secretary General appealed for increased international support, citing food insecurity across Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, as well as the need for reconstruction.[78]

On 23 March, the WFP declared the disaster in Mozambique a "level-three emergency", the highest level of crisis.[79] This puts it in the same category as the civil wars in Yemen, Syria, and South Sudan.[80]

International aid[edit]

Donated items placed in Harare for those affected by Cyclone Idai

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) called the disaster one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent history for Mozambique. An estimated 400,000 people were displaced by the storm and resulting floods. The agency appealed for 10 million Swiss francs in emergency funds to aid 75,000 people in dire need of assistance.[81]

The South African National Defence Force provided aerial and ground assistance to relief efforts in Malawi and Mozambique starting on 16 March.[82] On 18 March, the Department for International Development of the United Kingdom sent £6 million (US$8 million) to Mozambique and Malawi as a humanitarian relief.[83] The following day, 7,500 shelter kits and 100 family tents arrived in Mozambique to provide temporary housing to displaced persons. A further £12 million (US$16 million) worth of food, water, and shelter kits, was provided on 20 March. The country also assisted the WFP in providing food to 140,000 people through the end of March.[84] On 19 March, the European Union released an emergency aid of 3.5 million (US$4 million) to Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe,[85] The United Arab Emirates sent د.إ‎18.3 million (US$5 million) worth of food, water, and shelter supplies. Three delegates each from the Emirates Red Crescent would be sent to Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.[86] Norway provided kr6 million (US$700,000) to the WFP.[87] On 22 March, Portugal contributed an aid of €29,000 (US$33,000) to Manica and Zambézia Province of Mozambique.[88] IsraAid sent personnel to Mozambique to assist in the recovery. Personnel were readied to offer medical supplies, relief supplies, and psychological care to people affected by the storm. Personnel were also prepared to help restore access to safe water.[89]

Médecins Sans Frontières arrived in Beira on 18 March to assess medical needs and treat victims. With clinics and hospitals across the region severely damaged or destroyed or lacking power and water, efforts to treat injuries were hampered.[90] In conjunction with the Red Cross, The Salvation Army worked to provide two meals a day to 500 families in the city for three weeks beginning on 20 March.[91] CARE Australia started an emergency appeal for funds on 20 March and deployed personnel in the affected nations.[92] [93] On 21 March, the Singapore Red Cross announced it would be donating S$121,000 (US$90,000) to aid in relief operations in Mozambique and put a team on standby to assist with disaster response.[94] Two C-130 aircraft from the Portuguese Air Force carrying soldiers, medical personnel, and a disaster relief team left for Mozambique on 21 March.[71] The Indian Navy diverted three ships to the Port of Beira to provide humanitarian assistance.[95] Indian aid forces reported that relief efforts were made more difficult by strong tides, which gave them only "two-to-three-hour" intervals to act.[96]

Disease outbreaks[edit]

Multiple aid agencies have highlighted the urgent need to supply clean water to people in the area, warning of the risk of disease.[97] Cases of cholera, a disease transmitted via water contaminated with feces, were reported in Beira on 22 March. There has been an increase in the incidence of malaria, attributed to malarial mosquitoes breeding in the stagnant water.[74][73] Other potential risks identified include typhoid, another water-borne disease, and diarrheal diseases.[73] At least four people contracted typhoid in Dombe, Manica Province, with reports of other illnesses appearing in the province.[79]

See also[edit]

  • Cyclone Leon–Eline – Storm that affected similar areas in 2000, killing at least 100 people.
  • Cyclone Funso – Looped off the coast of Mozambique for days in 2012, causing severe flooding
  • Cyclone Hellen – Underwent rapid intensification in the Mozambique Channel in 2014, but weakened significantly before striking Madagascar and Mozambique
  • Cyclone Dineo – The last tropical cyclone to make landfall in Mozambique in 2017, killing over 200 people
  • Hurricane Katrina – A comparatively deadly tropical cyclone in the North Atlantic basin, which caused catastrophic damage in Louisiana in 2005
  • Hurricane Maria – A tropical cyclone in the North Atlantic basin with a comparable death toll, which devastated Puerto Rico in 2017

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Approximately 122 deaths occurred in Malawi and Mozambique from the flooding that preceded Idai's second landfall.[1]
  2. ^ At least 380 deaths occurred in Mozambique and 259 in Zimbabwe after Idai made its second landfall.[2][3]
  3. ^ Sources in text
  4. ^ Approximately 66 deaths occurred in Mozambique during the first landfall. At least 380 more deaths occurred there during the second landfall.

References[edit]

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