Mozambique: Cyclone “Jokwe” has already destroyed thousands of houses

Published: 11 March 2008

Cyclone “Jokwe” made landfall in Mozambique on Sunday. It is currently affecting Zambezia Province and will most likely cause further damage to this area already battered by floods earlier this year. “We are concerned about the situation and the possibility of more flooding to come,” says Fernanda Teixeira, secretary general of the Mozambique Red Cross (CVM) in the capital, Maputo. “The cyclone might also make its way to Sofala and Inhambane Province within the next 24 hours.”

More than 8,000 houses in coastal areas have been damaged and more than 40,000 people have been displaced. “Exact figures for the whole country are not available yet, because the government and other organizations are still assessing the situation,” reports Teixeira. Numbers are likely to rise quickly. CVM is part of this assessment team, working closely with the National Disaster Management Institute.

Since the cyclone hit Mozambique, thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes in the northern province of Nampula. The office of the Governor in Nampula has confirmed that six people have died and five have been injured by the storm in that province. Nearly 2,000 houses are destroyed or partly damaged, but in several districts the number has not been confirmed and, according to CVM, it could be up to 5,000 houses. In “Ilha de Mocambique”, strong winds have also injured 3 people and destroyed 131 houses, 12 schools, 3 mosques and hit 30 electricity towers. But power and the water supply has already been re-established in most of these affected areas.

In Nampula,  60 volunteers from CVM are currently erecting tents for displaced people. “We are now going to set up 145 tents and also 97 tarpaulins”, says Ms Teixeira. The Red Cross Society will distribute mosquito nets, blankets, jerry cans and about 200 plastic buckets and 160 sleeping mats. In Zambezia Province, 30 volunteers are in the field to help the victims of “Jokwe”. Plastic sheeting, tarpaulins, water tanks and chlorine for water treatment is urgently needed. The situation might worsen within the next few days.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is closely monitoring the situation and will send emergency supplies if needed once the first assessments are completed. “For the past three years, the Mozambique Red Cross has heavily invested in a community-based disaster management programme,” says Farid Aiywar, Regional Disaster Management Coordinator for southern Africa, based in Johannesburg. “An early warning system, using colour codes is activated every time there is an alert for floods or for a cyclone. When this happens, community members activate contingency plans. This early warning system has played a major role in reducing deaths and injuries again this time,” he adds.

Mozambique is also one of the countries covered by the International Federation’s revised appeal for 11.4 million Swiss francs (US$ 10.3 million,euro  7.1 million) launched on 13 February to support Red Cross societies in their response to the recent floods that hit several countries in the region, including Mozambique.