Urgent calls for international aid and climate action mounted Friday after the stongest cyclone to ever hit Mozambique made landfall just weeks after another powerful storm ravaged the impoverished African country.
"The families whose lives have been turned upside down by these climate-related disasters urgently need the generosity of the international community to survive over the coming months."
—Mark Lowcock, United Nations
"The families whose lives have been turned upside down by these climate-related disasters urgently need the generosity of the international community to survive over the coming months," Mark Lowcock, the United Nations humanitarian chief, said in a statement (pdf).
Lowcock warned that "Cyclone Kenneth may require a major new humanitarian operation at the same time that the ongoing Cyclone Idai response targeting 3 million people in three countries remains critically underfunded."
The new storm, he noted, "comes only six weeks after Cyclone Idai devastated central Mozambique, killing more than 600 people, unleashing a cholera epidemic, wiping out crops in the country's breadbasket, forcing a million people to rely on food assistance to survive, and causing massive destruction of homes, schools, and infrastructure in one of the world's poorest countries."
Last month's cyclone, as Common Dreams reported, destroyed an estimated 90 percent of Mozambique's port city of Beira before it moved on to portions of Malawi and Zimbabwe, killing hundreds more people. Cyclone Kenneth reached wind speeds equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane and reportedly killed at least three people on the island nation of Comoros before hammering northern Mozambique late Thursday.
Speaking with NPR from Beira, Katie Wilkes, a spokesperson for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, described the situation on the ground in Mozambique as "unprecedented."
"Cyclone Idai was one of the worst disasters in the country's history," Wilkes said, "and now we're seeing a second disaster."
Mozambique has faced a "one-two punch" with the second cyclone that has hit in just over a month.
Hundreds of thousands are anticipated to be affected following the landfall of #CycloneKenneth. Volunteers have been preparing communities. @kwilkes1 provides @NPR with an update: pic.twitter.com/0P38TEDVfN
— IFRC Africa (@IFRCAfrica) April 26, 2019
"It's really an anomaly in the history of cyclones in this region. There's never been two storms this strong hit in the same year, let alone within five weeks of each other in Mozambique," Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist who has worked in east Africa and monitored this cyclone's path, told the Guardian.
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The storm is expected to stall over Mozambique for several days, and projections show it could drop two feet or more of rain on the area in the coming days.
Cyclone Kenneth, strongest storm on record to hit southeast Africa, crashes ashore in Mozambique, dumping up to 30" of rain on a country already reeling from last month's Cyclone Idai. #hotneworld. https://t.co/FSXYcDPHII
— Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) April 26, 2019
"Nothing like this has happened in this region, and rarely happens anywhere in the world," Holthaus said. "So the kind of rainfall totals that the models are showing for Kenneth are really extreme in the global context."
"We have very strong evidence that everywhere in the world, rainfall is getting more intense," he added, tying Kenneth rainfall projections to the global climate crisis.
The meteorologist took to Twitter Friday to urge the global community to "help those who did nothing to cause the problem."
This is our task as humans in an escalating climate emergency: Help those who did nothing to cause the problem.@IFRC, @MSF, and @UNICEF are all already working in Mozambique to help the millions of people affected by Idai and Kenneth.
— Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) April 26, 2019
Landry Ninteretse, regional team leader of 350Africa, said in a statement Friday that the unfolding disaster "is a tragedy that points to the bigger crisis that humanity is faced with."
"For us, climate change is not a future risk, it's already a reality evident in wrecked families, lands and livelihoods, and homeless children and young people who have no choice but to seek a future by migrating," Ninteretse said. "We urgently need to step up efforts in Africa to adapt to a rapidly changing environment before more harm is brought to frontline communities who face the brunt of climate impacts."
Two deadly cyclones in two months in Mozambique is unprecedented and a sign of the worsening reality of climate crisis in Africa. #CycloneKenneth #CycloneIdai Time to act like our house is on fire! https://t.co/4IHMrpjFKo @350africa pic.twitter.com/LgSgjPIe8T
— 350 dot org (@350) April 26, 2019
"It is time to accept as fact that climate change will only increase the severity of extreme weather events; they present themselves to us as symptoms of the existential threat of climate change," said Njeri Kabeberi, executive director of Greenpeace Africa. "This is yet another wake-up call, and we urge our leaders in Africa to act with urgency to tackle the threats of climate change and to ensure climate justice."