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Cyclone Chalane hit Mozambique, leaving much less damage than previous storms

Illustration of the path followed by Cyclone Chalane – satellite image / screen shot Windy Forecast – 28 December 2020

The central Mozambican provinces of Sofala and Manica were hit by cyclone Chalane on 30-31 December.

After the devastating experience of Cyclone IDAI in March 2019, which killed more than 600 people and caused extensive destruction in the city of Beira, Mozambique was preparing for the worst.

Fortunately, the storm reduced in intensity, going from severe to moderate, and only caused intense rainfall with minimal destruction of infrastructure, according to the newspaper Notícias:

A tempestade tropical moderada Chalane, de categoria dois, cuja previsão inicial dava indicação de que provocaria ventos de 90 quilómetros por hora com rajadas de 110 e epicentro muito perto da cidade da Beira na madrugada de ontem, registou um pequeno desvio de sistema aliviando sobremaneira os residentes desta urbe.

The moderate tropical storm Chalane, a category two storm which was initially predicted to cause winds of 90 kilometres per hour with gusts of 110 and its to be epicentre very close to the city of Beira in the early morning, showed a small deviation in its structure, greatly relieving the city's residents.

However, at least four people are known to have died, some from drowning and others due to the effects of disruption of electric current. There was also damage to the power supply, and 600 people were displaced.

After the storm on 30 December, 600 families from the Guara-Guara shelter centre in Búzi were made homeless by the destruction of their tents. The CVM is supporting the affected and most vulnerable families in rebuilding their shelters.

In contrast to what was seen with Cyclone IDAI, this time there were several sources communicating information, particularly from organisations working on meteorological issues in Mozambique. The United Nations representative in the country, Myrta Kaulard, said in a public statement:

As memórias estão ainda muito frescas. Muitas pessoas estão ainda muito vulneráveis. As autoridades se estão preparando muito com informação para a população para evacuar. Muita população já foi retirada na resposta ao Idai, mas sempre há pessoas que voltam a zonas em risco de cheias. Chalane vai trazer ventos fortes, chuvas e maré alta. A maré vai estar alta e isto vai agravar o problema das inundações

The memories are still very fresh. Many people are still very vulnerable. The authorities are preparing a lot of information for the population to evacuate. Many people were already evacuated in response to Idai, but there are always people returning to areas at risk of flooding. Chalane will bring strong winds, rains and high tides. The tide will be high and this will aggravate the problem of flooding

Two days earlier, President Filipe Nyusi had spoken about the cyclone as reported by DW Português:

Em todo o país estão preparados e alertados, mas para coisas como essas ninguém está preparado porque são situações imprevisíveis em termos de danos. Teremos de ter cuidado e todos os que estão nas zonas de risco é melhor saírem.

All over the country [people] are prepared and alert, but for things like these nobody is prepared because they are unpredictable situations in terms of damage. We will have to be careful and all those who are in risk areas should leave.

RFI spoke to Acácio Tembe, a technician at the National Institute of Meteorology, who had warned of the danger:

(…) é preciso salientar que esses sistemas, que têm ventos mais fracos, traz muita quantidade de precipitação. Então, podemos ter uma situação de muita chuva, ventos relativamente mais fracos mas com muita chuva, mas também não descuramos, porque são ventos destrutivos. Estamos a falar de rajadas de 120, 130 kms por hora.

(…) it must be emphasized that these systems, which have weaker winds, bring a lot of precipitation. So we can have a situation of a lot of rain, relatively weaker winds but with a lot of rain, but we should not overlook this, because they are destructive winds. We are talking about gusts of 120, 130 kms per hour.

Mozambique is known to be vulnerable to cyclones due to its location, which is often exacerbated by a lack of capacity to deal with such events.

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