Mozambicans seek shelter …as storm Freddy makes landfall

Mozambicans took shelter on Friday as tropical storm Freddy made landfall in a small coastal town, with heavy rain expected to batter the country’s southern provinces for several days.

French weather forecaster, Meteo France, which has a cyclone-monitoring station on the Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, said Freddy hit the coast near the tourist town of Vilankulo in Inhambane prov­ince around 2 p.m. local time (1200 GMT).

The situation was calm two hours later, with no casual­ties reported although trees and rooftops had fallen, said Vilankulo district administrator, Edmundo Galiza Matos, in a statement.

Pictures posted by Matos on Facebook showed children and adults sitting on the floor in a crowded primary school classroom.

He said in the statement that 183 people had taken shelter there.

“The Government of Vilankulo continues to monitor the situation on the ground and thanks the population for responding positively to the appeals of the authorities,” the statement said.

The storm should weaken over the next few hours, but heavy rainfall will continue to pose a threat over the next few days in southern Mozambique and southeastern Zimbabwe, said Meteo France.

Some parts of northern South Africa are also at risk of flooding and wind damage, the South African government said in a separate statement.

Cornelder de Moçambique, a company that operates cargo terminals in Mozambique’s main port, Beira, said in a state­ment that the port was closed until 7 p.m. local time (1700 GMT) on Friday, subject to the weather conditions improving.

Up to 1.75 million people could be affected by the storm and severe flooding, the United Nations Office for the Coordi­nation of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement.

“The confluence of multiple threats is compounding a severe humanitarian situation in Mo­zambique,” said OCHA, adding that aid agencies were deploying staff to Inhambane and Gaza provinces.

Mozambique has already been battling severe flooding in recent days, and the govern­ment has declared a state of “red alert” to expedite opera­tions to tackle Freddy.

It hit Madagascar earlier this week as a tropical cyclone, destroying houses, displacing thousands and killing at least seven people.

Freddy weakened as it passed over Madagascar before strengthening again in the Mo­zambique Channel. —Reuters

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