Cyclone Kenneth: Death toll in Mozambique jumps to 38

Cyclone Kenneth made landfall on Mozambique’s northern coast on Thursday, packing storm surges and wind gusts of up to 280 km per hour.

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

JOHANNESBURG - The number of people killed after Cyclone Kenneth slammed into Mozambique has jumped from five to 38, the country’s disaster management institute said on Monday.

Cyclone Kenneth made landfall on Mozambique’s northern coast on Thursday, packing storm surges and wind gusts of up to 280 kilometres per hour, stretching resources in a region still recovering from Cyclone Idai, which struck further south in March. Since then it has dumped heavy rain on the region, causing floods.

Rains grounded aid flights in northern Mozambique for a second day on Monday, hampering efforts to reach survivors of Cyclone Kenneth.

Rescuers managed to use a brief break in the downpours to send one helicopter packed with aid to the island of Ibo, where hundreds of homes were flattened by the second cyclone to hit the country in less than six weeks.

But rains started again and conditions were too dangerous for the next flight to take off, the United Nations said. Roads to rural districts further north were swamped and impassable after torrential rains on Sunday.

“Unfortunately, the weather conditions are changing too fast and threatening the operation,” said Saviano Abreu, a spokesperson for the United Nations' humanitarian arm OCHA.

Cyclone Idai knocked out power and communications. Some rural communities were reduced to mounds of jumbled wood, with only the occasional structure and coconut tree left standing.

Four people died in the Comoros, the United Nations said. Mozambique’s National Institute of Disaster Management said its death toll stood at 38 on Monday - up from an earlier estimate of five - and just over 168,000 people had been affected.

After the first hit, heavy rains pounded Mozambique’s north, an area prone to floods and landslides. Information about the scale of the flooding in more remote districts remains scant.

In the port city of Pemba at least, waters had started to recede, OCHA’s Abreu said. Water was still waist-deep in some neighbourhoods. One man ferried residents in a wooden boat. Others just waded through the deluge, some carrying belongings on their heads.

Idai destroyed the port city of Beira and submerged entire villages, vast swathes of land and 700,000 hectares of crops. It killed more than 1,000 people across Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

Forecasters have said Kenneth could drop twice as much rain as Idai on Mozambique’s north. Authorities urged people living near rivers to move to higher ground over the weekend.

The United Nations said it had released $13 million in emergency funds for Mozambique and the Comoros to provide food and water and repair infrastructure.