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Mozambique struggles with flooding after storms

From Fernando Lima, for CNN
updated 2:52 PM EST, Tue January 24, 2012
  • Mozambique struggles after onslaught of two Indian Ocean storms
  • Tropical depression hit southern Mozambique last week; cyclone now lashing central coast
  • The main highway to the northern part of the nation is cut off by floodwaters
  • Cyclone Funso forecast to strengthen as it meanders south through Mozambique Channel

(CNN) -- Double-punched by two Indian Ocean storms, the southern African nation of Mozambique on Tuesday struggled with the destruction of a portion of its main national highway, cut-off communications and a reported death toll of 18, according to the nation's National Institute for Natural Disasters.

Tropical Cyclone Funso is lashing the central portion of the country, causing flooding along the Incomati River. Officials fear fuel and food shortages will start hit northern cities in Mozambique that usually get supplies via roadway from the capital, Maputo.

Funso currently has winds of 213 kph (about 132 mph), which would make it equal to a Category 4 major hurricane if located in the Atlantic, said CNN Senior Meteorologist Brandon Miller. The center of circulation is in the Mozambique Channel, between central Mozambique and the island of Madagascar.

It is forecast to strengthen as it meanders south through the Mozambique Channel over the next several days, Miller said. The storm is spreading rainfall over much of Mozambique and Madagascar, and this will continue for several days as the storm is moving very slowly, Miller said.

Last week, southern Mozambique was hit by heavy rains from tropical depression Dando.

Cecilio Grachane, the chief of the National Roads Administration, expects provisional repairs will be done on the nation's critical north-south highway by Wednesday. But because of poor communication, traffic continues to move toward the place where the waters of the Incomati are overwashing the highway.

The U.S. Embassy in Mozambique said Tuesday it had received reports from two American citizens unable to travel because of a road closure. There have been no reports of Americans injured, it said.

Prime Minister Aires Ali visited the area on Sunday, urging people to not move on the road before they get clear advice on road and weather conditions. On Monday, small boats were helping move people trapped by floodwater along the highway.

The Movene River, a tributary of the Umbeluzi, has risen substantially, limiting access to the Umbeluzi water treatment station on which Maputo relies for its water supply. Water used by residents of the capital city now has a brown color.

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