Maputo — Cyclone Giovanna, contrary to earlier forecasts, is now heading away from the Mozambican coast, and back towards Madagascar.
After leaving a trail of destruction across central Madgascar on Tuesday, Giovanna entered the Mozambique Channel and tracked to the south-west throughout Wednesday. Although it was projected to move almost due west, on a course that would bring it to the southern Mozambican coast, in fact the cyclone changed course dramatically on Thursday.
Throughout the day it moved to the south-east at a speed of five knots (about nine kilometres an hour). By midnight Giovanna was about 250 kilometres west of the southernmost tip of Madagascar.
The latest projections on Friday morning by the US Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Centre (JTWC) envisage Giovanna moving slowly towards the Madagascar coast, and making landfall some time on Sunday. It will then dissipate.
Nonetheless, the cyclone remains a threat to shipping in the southern part of the Mozambique Channel. It brought choppy seas and strong winds to the coast of the southern province of Inhambane, and boats that operate in the Bay of Inhambane on Thursday thought it wiser not to put to sea.
At a Thursday meeting of the government's Disaster Management Coordinating Council, Defence Minister Filipe Nhussi recognised that Mozambique has greatly improved its weather forecasting capacity, allowing the authorities to issue warnings in good time, so that the public are not caught unprepared.
But he noted that there had been deaths at sea, even after the alert had been given. Nhussi instructed the maritime authorities to take a tougher line, and issue outright bans on fishermen putting to sea during critical weather conditions. He urged that the state of disaster readiness should be maintained, since the rainy season is not over until the end of March.
The Civil Protection Unit (UNAPROC), mobilized for Inhambane because of the initial alerts concerning Giovanna, will remain in place until the cyclone has definitively dissipated.