Devastation and displacement: Unprecedented cyclones in Mozambique and Zimbabwe a sign of what’s to come?

In late March 2019, Cyclone Idai made landfall on the central coast of Mozambique. Heavy winds and torrential rains brought devastation across much of central Mozambique, as well as parts of eastern Zimbabwe and southern Malawi.

Around 3 million people were affected, including several hundred thousand who were internally displaced. Nearly 2 million acres of crops were destroyed. Just over a month later, in April, Cyclone Kenneth hit northern Mozambique with sustained winds of up to 140 miles per hour, affecting another 300,000 people.

This is the first time since standard weather-related record-keeping began that two major cyclones have hit Mozambique in the same season, and the only known occurrence of a cyclone striking the country’s far north. As a country with a long Indian Ocean coast, it is accustomed to tropical storms, but not to cyclones of this intensity. In Zimbabwe, Cyclone Idai’s unprecedented heavy rains destroyed crops at a time when many inhabitants already faced hunger due to persistent drought and a deteriorating economy.

Climate scientists representing an overwhelming consensus in the scientific community predict that there will be an increase in the proportion of major cyclones with very high winds and rates of rainfall. Therefore, southern African countries bordering the Indian Ocean and those further inland must be prepared for similar future events.

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