Five people have died and aid workers have reported scenes of destruction in the wake of Cyclone Kenneth, the second tropical cyclone to lay waste to swathes of Mozambique in five weeks.
Rescuers have moved in to help people trapped by rapidly rising flood water in the northern city of Pemba, home to 200,000 people, a United Nations spokesman said, as Kenneth dumped more rain on the region.
The storm slammed into the province of Cabo Delgado on Thursday, killing five people, and since then has pounded an area prone to floods and landslides with rain, fuelling fears rivers could burst their banks and leave vast areas underwater.
Homes were flattened, roofs blown off and palm trees toppled in images posted online by one UN agency.
On Sunday, there was extensive flooding in the provincial capital of Pemba, with water pouring down roads in a number of neighbourhoods, and the authorities trying to evacuate at-risk communities with the help of the Red Cross.
Cyclone Kenneth hits Mozambique as country still reeling from devastation of Idai – video“Flood waters are hampering our ability to get out to more remote communities,” said Matthew Carter of the Red Cross. “If the situation in Pemba is replicated throughout the north, it’s a major disaster.”
Unlike the area where Idai struck, cyclones do not usually hit Cabo Delgado, and the UN’s children’s agency said a further 368,000 children were at risk.
“Cabo Delgado has no history of cyclones and we are deeply worried that communities in the area would not have been prepared for the scale of the storm, putting children and families in a very precarious position,” said Michel Le Pechoux. “The soil is saturated with rain and the rivers are already swollen, so the emergency is likely to get worse from flooding in the next few days.”
In Pemba and the surrounding areas, there were reports of waist-high water.
“There are already people in need of search and rescue,” said Saviano Abreu, a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in southern and eastern Africa, adding a team was on its way to the neighbourhood of Natite, in the city’s north, where houses were beginning to collapse in the floods.
“We unfortunately are expecting devastating floods in Pemba.”
On Friday, Mozambican authorities urged people living near two rivers in the province, one to the north of Pemba and the other to the south, to move to higher ground as rivers began to fill up and overflow.
Cyclone Kenneth, packing storm surges and winds of up to 170 miles an hour, struck Mozambique’s northern coast six weeks after Cyclone Idai, which flattened the port city of Beira and left entire villages under water. Idai killed 1,000 people across Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.
Over the coming days, Kenneth could dump twice as much rain on Mozambique, the World Food Programme has warned, sparking fears the impoverished nation could suffer another bout of deadly floods.
It has already caused huge destruction in some districts of Cabo Delgado, with one UN OCHA official saying some villages had been entirely wiped out.
“They look like they have been run over with a bulldozer,” Gemma Connell, the head of OCHA’s regional office, said.