Cyclone Idai

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Cyclone Idai was one of the worst tropical cyclones to hit Mozambique / Southern Africa on record. On 9 March 2019, a depression re-entered the Mozambique Channel and strengthened into Moderate Tropical Storm, named Idai (the tenth named storm). On 11 March the storm had sustained winds of 175 km/h. On 14 March, Idai reached its peak intensity, with maximum sustained winds of 195 km/h. On 15 March, Idai made landfall near Beira. On 16 March Idai weakened, while continuing inland for another day. It turned East on 17 March, and on 19 March, it moved into the Mozambique Channel again and dissipated on 21 March.

Ashore, the strong winds and severe flooding left more than 1 300 people dead, more missing, and affected more than 3 million others making it the second-deadliest tropical cyclone on record (after cyclone Flores of 1973 cyclone off the coast of Indonesia that killed 1,650). Catastrophic damage occurred in and around Beira in central Mozambique. After affects included a cholera outbreak with more than 4,000 confirmed cases and seven fatalities by 10 April. Damage is estimated at US$2.2 billion, including US$1 billion in infrastructure damages. Coming around harvest time, the storms also had a serious impact on food security for many. An estimate says over $2 billion will be needed to recover.

Timeline, 2019

3 March – Tropical disturbance develops
5 March – First landfall - Severe flooding caused by heavy rains across Malawi and Mozambique
9 March – Depression, Mozambique Channel
11 March – Moderate Tropical Storm/depression
14 March – Peak intensity
14 - 15 March – Second Landfall
19 March – Mozambique Channel
21 March – Dissipated
28 March – Mozambique government calls off search for survivors
2 April – Cholera outbreak
25 April – Cyclone Kenneth over Northern Mozambique.

Significant points

Second deadliest Tropical cyclone
Worst cyclone in Southern Africa on record
Deaths – 1 297
Missing – 2 262
Injuries – 2 450
Confirmed cholera cases: 4,979
Confirmed cholera deaths: 8
Affected – 3 044 000
Damage/recovery cost – US$2 billion.



Mozambique suffered two landfalls from Idai. The first, when the storm was still a depression on 6 March and flooding caused 66 deaths in Niassa, Tete and Zambezia Provinces. 111 were injured, and homes, schools and hospitals were damaged. Floods also destroyed 168,000 hectares of crops.

The second landfall in Central Mozambique (Sofala and Manica Provinces) killed over 532 people from flooding and wind. In Beira, airborne debris caused numerous injuries. Destruction of homes and other buildings, damage to roads and bridges, and crop destruction brought the national total to 711,000 ha. An estimated 1.85 million people were affected by the cyclone.

In Beira, Idai produced a storm surge of 4.4 m. More than 500,000 people in the city, the majority of the population, lost power. Rainfall in the city exceeded 200 mm. The IFRC reported that 90% of the area in Beira was totally destroyed More than 600 mm fell near Chimoio. A tsunami-like wave of water devastated Nhamatanda, sweeping many people to their deaths and destroying the town. Days after landfall, the Buzi and Pungwe rivers in central Mozambique overflowed their banks. The city of Búzi continued to flood as of 20 March. Thousands of people remained trapped on rooftops four days after Idai made landfall.

Deaths – 602
Missing - Thousands
Injuries - 1641
Affected – 1 850 000
Damage – US$773 million.


Eastern Zimbabwe had heavy rains after the second landfall. Chimanimani District had the heaviest rains of 200 - 400 mm. Flash flooding resulted, and 169 people died in Chimanimani, and bodies were swept into Mozambique. 82 bodies confirmed buried 42 km inside Mozambique.

The Nyahonde River burst its banks. Water overflowed the Marowanyati Dam in Murambinda, along the Mwerahari River. Destruction of numerous bridges and roads in eastern Chimanimani isolated many communities.

Deaths - 634
Missing - 257
Injuries - 232
Affected – 270 000


After the first landfall, Idai brought heavy rains to southeastern Malawi. Widespread flooding began on 9 March, washing out bridges, roads, and destroying homes. Nsanje and Phalombe Districts were hardest hit. Approximately 1,400 homes were destroyed in Blantyre. Rising waters overwhelmed flood mitigating infrastructure, causing dams to collapse.

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.

The second landfall, 15 March, caused further damage of the above nature.

Deaths - 60
Missing - 3
Injuries - 577
Affected – 922 900


While over the Mozambique Channel, Idai brought heavy rains to northwestern Madagascar, with localised accumulations of approximately 400 mm. Flooding and mudslides in Besalampy killed one person, left two missing, and affected 1,100 others, as well as damaging 137 homes.

Deaths - 1
Missing - 2
Injuries - 0
Affected - 1100



Immediately after the first landfall, the government requested MT1.1 billion (US$17.6 million) to provide aid for flood victims. After the second landfall, the crisis overwhelmed rescuers. The Mozambique National Disasters Management Institute could not cope with the scale. President Filip Nyusi warned the death toll in his country alone could rise over 1,000. The agency deployed boats and helicopters to save residents, however thousands of victims were 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. Three-fourths of the displaced persons reside in Sofala Province. A total of 128,941 people were displaced to 143 evacuation centers nationwide, where conditions were often poor.


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, mudslides and damaged road infrastructure hampered relief efforts, leaving many residents stranded without assistance. Medical supplies were sent to Mutare; however, damaged infrastructure hampered distribution. Some affected areas, including Chimanimani, remained difficult to reach as of 22 March. Residents established collection centers in Bulawayo and Harare.

The cyclone swept through four districts - Masvingo, Bikita, Zaka and [[Gutu]. In Masvingo district, 556 families were affected by the cyclone which also left 32 families homeless. In Masvingo district, unlike other districts, roads and infrastructure such as bridges were not seriously affected by the cyclone.


President Peter Mutharika declared a state of emergency for affected districts on 8 March prompting mobilisation of the Malawian Defence Force. The government estimated $16.4 million was needed to ease the effects of damage due to flooding. Initial estimates 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 US$25,000 worth of supplies to displaced persons on 11 March. On 11 March, the Malawi Revenue Authority provided 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 US$3,000. 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.


The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) initially dropped 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.


The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) appealed for emergency funds to aid 75,000. The French Red Cross transported household items from their warehouse on La Réunion within days of the cyclone. Three delegates each from the Emirates Red Crescent were sent to Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. The Portuguese Red Cross deployed a medical and disaster management "surge team" ahead of major operations by the IFRC. On 21 March, the Singapore Red Cross announced it would be donating US$90,000 to aid in relief operations in Mozambique and put a team on standby to assist. On 24 March, the IFRC revised their appeal for Mozambique to support 200,000 victims.


Médecins Sans Frontières arrived in Beira on 18 March to assess medical needs and treat victims.

South Africa

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) provided aerial and ground assistance to relief efforts in Malawi and Mozambique starting on 16 March.


On 18 March, the Department for International Development of the United Kingdom sent US$8 million to Mozambique and Malawi as a humanitarian relief. The following day, 7,500 shelter kits and 100 family tents arrived in Mozambique to provide temporary housing to displaced persons. A further US$16 million worth of food, water, and shelter kits, was provided on 20 March.


On 19 March, the European Union released an emergency aid of US$4 million to Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.


The United Arab Emirates sent US$5 million worth of food, water, and shelter supplies.


IsraAid sent personnel to Mozambique to assist, and more were readied to offer medical supplies, relief supplies, and psychological care, and to help restore access to safe water.


Two C-130 aircraft from the Portuguese Air Force carrying soldiers, medical personnel, and a disaster relief team left for Mozambique on 21 March.


The Indian Navy diverted three ships to the Beira.


24 March, the Government of Morocco deployed four aircraft from the Royal Armed Forces collectively carrying 39 tons of relief goods.


Cases of cholera were reported in Beira on 22 March. The ensuing outbreak had 517 confirmed cases in the Beira area between 24 and 31 March. By 10 April, 4,072 confirmed cases were recorded with eight fatalities.
An increase in the incidence of malaria was noted, attributed to malarial mosquitoes breeding in the stagnant water.
At least four people contracted typhoid in Dombe, Manica Province. Mozambique health officials reported at least 2,700 cases of diarrhoea by 26 March.

Health efforts were hampered by the destruction of the cyclone, with 55 health centers destroyed in the region. Beira's main hospital suffered extensive damage, rendering six of its seven operating theaters unusable.

Further Reading

<Wikipedia="Cyclone Idai"> Cyclone Idai, Wikipedia, Retrieved: 18 October 2019</ref>








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