Rescuers raced to help people caught in fast-rising floodwaters in Mozambique’s cyclone-hit city of Pemba on Sunday, as houses collapsed in one neighborhood and heavy rain raised fears of worse to come.
More than 160 000 people have been affected in the largely rural region, many already exposed and hungry.
“Help us, we are losing everything!” residents of the northern city shouted at passing cars as the rushing waters flooded their homes. Women and girls with buckets and pots tried to scoop away the torrent. But in vain – the water poured into doorways.
In the worst-affected neighborhood of Natite, homes began to collapse, the United Nation’s humanitarian agency (OCHA) said in a tweet.
We are unfortunately expecting devastating floods,” it said.
Tens of thousands of people in the far north of Mozambique are bracing for violent flooding as torrential rain pushes up water levels, after the death and devastation wrought by Cyclone Kenneth.
The first floods have already been seen in some parts of Pemba, the capital of Cabo Delgado province, as well as in surrounding areas, lashed by heavy rain since daybreak, AFP journalists reported.
Fields on the outskirts of the city that had been lush green just a day earlier were now brown with floodwater.
“It’s been raining hard since Sunday morning,” said Deborah Nguyen, spokeswoman for the UN World Food Programme. “Violent flooding is expected in and around Pemba.
“We are very worried because, according to the forecasts, heavy rain is expected for the next four days,” she added.
“We expect the rainfall to be twice as much as that which accompanied Cyclone Idai that hit the city of Beira last month.”
Idai hit central Mozambique six weeks ago and communities in that region are still reeling from floods that swept away homes, roads and bridges, leaving around 1,000 people dead and hundreds of thousands without shelter.
As much as 250mm, or about one-quarter of the average annual rainfall for the region, has been forecast over the next few days.
“I have never seen such rains in my life,” said one Pemba resident, 35-year-old Michael Fernando.
This was the first time in recorded history that the southern African nation has been hit by two cyclones in one season, again raising concerns about climate change.
Rescue workers evacuated at least 130 people to centres elsewhere in the city on Sunday, mostly by boat, said Salviano Abreu, spokesperson for OCHA.
‘Not a single house is standing anymore’
According to Unicef an additional 368 000 children in Mozambique are now at risk and potentially in need of lifesaving humanitarian support.
“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, Unicef Deputy Representative in Mozambique.
Some Pemba residents tried to pile up tyres and sand-filled sacks outside their homes to keep the rising water out, while elsewhere small, rapid rivers formed, carving trenches into the streets.
Children took refuge in a bus that appeared to be stuck as vehicles struggled on the streets. One woman stood, seemingly stunned, as the rain pounded down.
“We will keep moving until we get somewhere safe,” one man said, as people fled carrying belongings in plastic bags.
In the city’s Mahate neighbourhood, a large crack had formed in the ground, prompting OCHA to warn of landslides.
There was no immediate word on the extent of flooding outside Pemba.
Authorities have said at least five people died after Kenneth roared in Thursday evening with the force of a Category 4 hurricane, stunning residents of a region where such a storm had not been recorded in the modern era.
More than 35 000 homes in parts of Mozambique’s northernmost Cabo Delgado were partially or fully destroyed by the storm.
Images shared by OCHA showed rows of wooden houses, separated by sandy paths, that had been almost completely flattened. Only a few structures and the occasional coconut tree were left standing.
“Not a single house is standing anymore,” Abreu told reporters.