Another climate ‘wake-up call’ for southern Africa


Tropical Storm Ana battered three southern African countries this week, killing more than 70 people, washing away houses and infrastructure, and leaving around 350,000 people homeless and without public services. Ana began over Madagascar’s eastern Analamanga region on Jan. 24, with wind speeds of up to 100 kmph, causing flooding and landslides that killed more than 40 people and forced 72,000 from their homes. It then made landfall in Mozambique, causing significant damage to the central provinces of Zambezia, Nampula and Tete, and leaving at least 15 people dead. Next hit was Malawi on Jan. 25, where 19 were killed and more than 217,000 people fled their homes. The storm downed power lines and forced the closure of the country’s main hydropower plant. That also affected water pumping stations, resulting in water shortages in the main cities of Blantyre, Zomba, Lilongwe and Mzuzu. A new storm, Batsirai, is brewing in the Indian Ocean and may follow a similar path.

From The New Humanitarian, Jan. 29

Note: When southern Africa was devastated by Tropical Cyclone Eloise exactly a year earlier, the UN regional coordinator warned that the “yearly rendezvous with the cyclonic season” has become a “wake-up call” on the impacts of climate change.

Photo: Malawi Red Cross

  1. Cyclone Batsirai takes deadly toll in Madagascar

    The death toll from Cyclone Batsirai has risen to close to 100 people, as reports continue to emerge of the storm’s impact after battering the country’s eastern and central regions on 5 February. At least 75,000 people were forced from their homes and urgently need safe water, sanitation, medicine, and food. (TNH)

  2. Hundreds dead in South Africa floods

    Almost 400 people have died in flooding in South Africa’s eastern coastal city of Durban. With roads and bridges washed away, rescuers have battled to deliver supplies, and some residents have gone without power or water for days. Parts of KwaZulu-Natal province recorded almost their average annual rainfall in just 48 hours—a deluge that took the weather forecasters by surprise. Informal settlements have been particularly badly hit. But neither has the flooding spared shopping malls and businesses that had only recently recovered from politically inspired looting. Toppled containers also forced the closure of the country’s largest port for 36 hours—a key trade route for landlocked neighbors including Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. President Cyril Ramaphosa was visibly shocked when he toured the area on April 13. He blamed climate change for the devastation; yet more dangerous storms are forecast for the coming days. Durban has a progressive climate action plan, but years of underspending on basics like the maintenance of city infrastructure and stormwater systems have undermined those ambitions. (TNH)

  3. A fierce—and familiar—storm in Mozambique

    A year after Cyclone Freddy—one of the fiercest storms on record—killed  over 1,400 people and displaced more than half a million others in Southern Africa, another tropical storm has killed four people and left hundreds of thousands in Mozambique in urgent need of assistance.

    Scientists say global warming has increased the intensity of rainfall during cyclones, while rising sea levels have increased the impact of coastal flooding, and spurred more storms, each compounding the effects of the last. Tropical Storm Filipo caused massive destruction to properties and infrastructure with a direct hit on the southern town of Inhassoro—in the same province where Freddy first made landfall on the African mainland last year, before looping back and coming ashore further north. Destroyed crops have pushed some survivors to eat wild roots.

    Mozambique is considered to be among Africa’s most vulnerable nations to climate change, even though it contributes relatively few pollutants. (TNH)