Monday, April 15, 2024

‘The sea is rising, the climate is changing’: the lessons learned from Mozambique’s deadly cyclone

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The tree had stood in the square for nearly 100 years. It was planted by his father, before Afonso Reis was born. He worked as a driver and “liked trees”, says Reis, who is in his 70s. People used to eat the bitter red fruit, but more recently it had provided welcome shade for the stallholders of a busy market in Beira, one of Mozambique’s largest cities.

“I liked to sit under the branches,” says Fina, 21, who sells tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and garlic in the market’s chaotic alleyways. Others hawk bananas, oranges, secondhand clothes. Life would change but the tree seemed constant. Then something odd happened. At about 2pm on 14 March 2019, the tree suddenly keeled over and crashed to the ground. No one was hurt, but people were taken by surprise. “There was only a light wind,” Fina says. “Who would have thought that a tree that size would just fall down?”

Seven hours later, the deadliest cyclone in the history of southern Africa hit Mozambique, before surging inland to Zimbabwe and Malawi. Cyclone Idai killed more than 1,000 people and devastated Beira, a sprawling port city of 500,000 people, built on a delta in the Mozambique Channel on the east coast of Africa. First there was wind, with gusts of up to 200km an hour, strong enough to blow off roofs and to send plates, chairs, even cats and dogs, airborne. The stink of rotting animals that had been flung into trees lingered for days. Read more…

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