A powerful storm approaching Mozambique was upgraded on Friday to a tropical cyclone, on course to deluge an area already submerged by floodwaters and still recovering from Cyclone Idai less than two years ago.
Cyclone Eloise, fuelled by the warm Indian Ocean waters of the Mozambique channel, gained tropical cyclone status with its strength equivalent to a category two storm, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), said.
It warned the storm would pummel central Mozambique with hurricane-force winds and heavy rains. It said gusts could reach between 150 kmh and 200 kmh near the point of impact.
It was expected to make landfall on Saturday around 0300 GMT near the port city of Beira, in a region that bore the brunt of the devastation from Cyclone Idai in March 2019.
That storm and deadly floodwaters that followed it killed more than 1,000 people across Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, displaced many magnitudes more and wiped out crops.
Some of the worst-hit areas then, such as Buzi district, outside of Beira, were already submerged by days of rains ahead of the cyclone’s arrival, with brown water consuming fields and running through village streets.
It used to be rare for cyclones and flash floods to batter this stretch of southeast African coastline, but they have become a regular occurrence. Storms have gotten stronger as waters have warmed due to climate change from greenhouse gas emissions, while rising sea levels have made low-lying coastlines vulnerable, experts say.