20 March 2019

Southern Africa: Cyclone Idai Need Not Have Taken So Many Lives

analysis

Much of the damage and death and destruction from Cyclone Idai could have been limited if there were proper environmental controls in place in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

My heart goes out to the battered and bruised people of Mozambique, the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe, and southern Malawi. Cyclone Idai, which hammered in last week, and which is now still hovering, not moving much, has wrought untold destruction.

Early reports are of hundreds dead and missing - other than intensified load shedding because power lines from Cahora Bassa are down, we have been spared the worst in South Africa, unlike historic cyclones like Domoina, which struck KwaZulu-Natal in January 1984, killing 242 people.

Or the unnamed cut-off low-pressure system that hit KZN on 28 September 1987 that was one of the most disastrous storms ever to hit South Africa. It caused far more damage than Domoina and killed 506 people across the province. More than 50,000 people were left homeless, and some areas received up to 900mm of rain - just short of a metre - in four days.

"Luckily" - although not lucky for those in its path - Cyclone Idai hit hardest in the relatively unpopulated coastal zones...

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