A category 3 cyclone has made landfall in Mozambique on Thursday evening, bringing with it high wind speeds of up to 224km/h and rain.
There are reports of damage and power cuts as the tropical cyclone made landfall.
The storm is expected to deliver a massive punch to the country when it hits, as pre-storm flooding in Mozambique has already killed 66 people.
News24 reported that an additional 45 people had died in Malawi as a result of flooding on Wednesday.
The cyclone, named Tropical Cyclone Idai, is gathering strength over the Indian Ocean and is predicted to hit the country in the city of Beira in Sofala Province.
— Anouk Delafortrie (@ECHO_CESAfrica) March 14, 2019
“It’s an intense tropical cyclone; it will have winds of 105 knots (200km/h) when it makes landfall,” said Vermeulen.
South African officials are working with their counterparts in Mozambique through the National Joint Operations Centre to share information on the storm and its likely impact
Widespread flooding is expected.
“We are expecting more than 100mm of rain in places; it could even reach 200mm or more in places. The main thing is wind damage and high waves that could go up to 10m,” said Vermeulen, adding that storm surges were also a concern.
Mozambique cabinet spokesperson Ana Comoana said the “government has decreed a red alert due to the continuing rains and the approach of the tropical cyclone Idai, expected to reach the country between Thursday to Friday”, Al Jazeera reported.
Cyclones are typical for Mozambique at this time of year, but there are concerns that the weather patterns have been increasing in intensity.
According to the Mozambique National Institute for Disaster Management, the National Operational Emergency Centre (CENOE) is prepared for extreme weather events and in 2017, the CENOE demonstrated the use of drones to allow teams to assess the impact and scale of natural disasters.
According to the Mozambican Master Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction 2017-2030, the Mozambique National Institute for Disaster Management argues that over the last 20 years, the country has experienced increasing high intensity and frequency of extreme weather events.
News24 reported that Tropical Storm Dineo, with winds in excess of 166km/h, hit Mozambique in February. It followed Tropical Storm Desmond, which hit in January.
Weather service Windy.com showed that the storm was off the east coast of Mozambique, with winds already in excess of 100km/h.