At least 3,384 houses have been destroyed and more than 18,000 people displaced in Mozambique by Tropical Cyclone Kenneth, according to initial reports to the country’s National Institute of Disaster Management.
The powerful storm, packing the strength of a Category 4 hurricane, caused widespread damage in the districts of Quissanga and Macomia in northern Mozambique and on the island of Ibo. Kenneth made landfall Thursday evening between Macomia and Mocimboa da Praia in the far northern Cabo Delgado Province.
“Ninety-five percent of the homes on Ibo have been destroyed – not only roofs blowing off, but down to the ground,” said Kevin Record, who owns a hotel on the island. “We’ve got about 50 people sleeping in our lodge. The situation remains dire. There’s still no power on Ibo and no access.”
More than 30,000 people were evacuated from high-risk areas ahead of the cyclone, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Friday. Almost 750,000 were thought to be in Kenneth’s path, the office said before the storm hit.
The tropical cyclone comes a little more than a month after the southern African nation was dealt a devastating blow by the deadliest and costliest storm in its history – Tropical Cyclone Idai, which killed more than 700 people, displaced tens of thousands and wiped away homes in the central city of Beira.
Kenneth is the strongest tropical cyclone to hit Mozambique in known history, but its impact was not expected to be as devastating as that of Idai, which came with heavy rains for days before and after its March 15 landfall and winds of nearly 175 kilometers per hour (109 mph).
Kenneth built up on Wednesday, with a wind speed of 140 kilometers per hour (more than 85 mph) and intensified as it moved over the Comoro Islands in the Indian Ocean and later struck Mozambique.
By Thursday, it had maximum sustained winds of 220 kilometers per hour (nearly 140 mph), the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
The storm has dissipated but is expected to bring torrential rainfall and significant flooding in the coming days. More than 20 inches of rain is projected over the next three days – roughly four times the average monthly rainfall for the region.
Northern Mozambique is not as populated as Beira, the city most affected by Idai, and the region struck by Kenneth didn’t have intense rainfall in recent days, which may mitigate the impact of flooding compared with the earlier storm.
UNICEF Mozambique’s Daniel Timme said the agency began putting aid in place ahead of Kenneth from Beira and Maputo to the north of Mozambique.
Timme said that UNICEF is still providing humanitarian assistance for about 1 million children in central Mozambique in Cyclone Idai’s aftermath.
In Pemba, the provincial capital of Cabo Delgado and an economic hub, residents told CNN they met daybreak with a sense of relief Friday after Kenneth struck.
“The rain has stopped for now,” homeowner Innocent Mushunje said.
“Mostly the damage has come from fallen trees, but it hasn’t been severe in Pemba. I’m more worried about low-lying villages where the structures are more precarious.”
Andre Luis, manager of the Nautilus Hotel, said the popular Pemba tourist spot had minimum damage to its beachfront restaurant.
“The strongest wind and rain came around 1 a.m. The power has been out since 11 p.m. At the moment there is no rain, and the wind is dying down for now,” he said. “At the moment, we aren’t worried. This is not as bad as we anticipated.”
Luis, who lives on the outskirts of Pemba, said his house wasn’t damaged but fallen trees have caused some damage to fencing.
Another hotel manager, Vitaliano Hivala of Raphael’s, said many people arrived before the storm to seek shelter. “There was heavy wind and rain overnight, but not nearly as bad as I expected,” Hivala told CNN, “and there is no damage that I can see.”