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First death as Cyclone Kenneth smashes into Mozambique

Category three Cyclone Kenneth, packing winds of 160 kilometres an hour, struck the north coast's Cabo Delgado province late Thursday after swiping the Comoros islands.

FILE: This handout picture released and taken on 26 April 2019 by the World Food Programme shows the battered coast of Wimbi Beach in Pemba as Cyclone Kenneth hit the north coast of Mozambique in Cabo Delgado province. Picture: AFP

MAPUTO - A powerful cyclone smashed into northern Mozambique, leaving one person dead on Friday, barely a month after a super-storm hit the centre of the country, devastating the area and leaving hundreds dead.

Category three Cyclone Kenneth, packing winds of 160 kilometres an hour, struck the north coast's Cabo Delgado province late on Thursday after swiping the Comoros islands.

The United Nations warned of flash flooding and landslides as Mozambique's emergency agency the INGC reported one person was killed by a falling coconut tree in the port city of Pemba, Cabo Delgado's provincial capital.

On the tourist island of Ibo, 90% of homes for the 6,000 population had been flattened, according to a spokesperson for the agency, Antonio Beleza.

"I don't expect to find my hotel undamaged," said Swiss hotel owner Lucie Amr, who took refuge in Ibo's fort alongside many local residents.

The winds had reduced to about 70 kilometres an hour on Friday, according to the local meteorological institute, but heavy rains are forecast over the next 24 hours, raising fears of flooding and mudslides in Cabo Delgado, which borders Tanzania.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said over 600 millimetres of rainfall was expected.

That would be nearly double the amount accumulated in 10 days of rainfall that caused flooding in Beira, which was devastated during Cyclone Idai.

'ADDITIONAL BLOW'

The most powerful storm to strike the region in decades, Idai cut a path of destruction through Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. It left more than 1,000 dead, causing damage estimated at around $2 billion (1.8 billion euros)

"Although floodwaters have receded in most areas it (Idai) affected, access is still a challenge as infrastructure was severely compromised," the WFP said.

"This second cyclone is an additional blow for the people of Mozambique and bound to complicate the humanitarian response," said the organisation, adding that it had already provided food aid to 1.3 million people after Idai.

It said the government had made public buildings, including schools, available to people seeking shelter from the flooding and the WFP has "prepositioned" over 500 tonnes of food in Pemba.

A helicopter is expected to arrive in Cabo Delgado when weather conditions allow as roads are expected to be impassable because of flooding, making food delivery difficult, it added.

Forecasters at Meteo-France warned that Kenneth could trigger waves off Mozambique's northeastern shore as much as five metres higher than usual.

"I was quite preoccupied by the sea because they announced six metre waves... the wind was very strong, and I've never seen anything like it in my 15 years in Pemba," a Portuguese owner of a lodge on Wimby beach, Anabela Moreira, told AFP.

Local journalist Jonas Wazir told AFP that some houses had collapsed and that electricity supply in the city was down.

The Red Cross warned it was "especially concerned" about the storm's impact, as many communities in Mozambique were still recovering from a cyclone that hit on the night of 14-15 March.

"Cyclone Kenneth may require a major new humanitarian operation at the same time that the ongoing Cyclone Idai response targeting three million people in three countries remains critically underfunded," the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) also warned.

Kenneth first passed by the Indian Ocean archipelago nation of Comoros on Thursday, battering it with high winds and heavy rains, the country's meteorological office wrote on Facebook.

TANZANIA CONCERN

Tanzanian authorities ordered schools and businesses shut in some southern districts on Thursday and urged people to brace for extreme winds and rain.

The Tanzanian provinces of Mtwara, Lindi and Ruvuma were at highest risk, the country's meteorological agency said.

Residents in Mtwara were leaving the coastal enclave with their families, some on foot, for emergency shelters, witnesses told AFP by phone.

Gelasius Byakanwa, the governor of Mtwara, ordered schools closed in his province and asked "students to stay home and employees not to go to their offices".

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