Flood-hit Kenya and Tanzania on alert as cyclone approaches

Nairobi (AFP) – Kenya and Tanzania were on alert on Saturday for a cyclone heading towards their Indian Ocean coasts, threatening to increase misery after deadly floods that have devastated the region.

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Some 400 people have lost their lives in East Africa and tens of thousands have been uprooted from their homes in recent weeks as torrential rains caused flooding and landslides swept away homes, roads and bridges.

Kenyan President William Ruto on Friday described the weather outlook as “dire” and postponed the reopening of schools indefinitely as the nation braced for its first cyclone.

Tropical Cyclone Hidaya is expected to make landfall over the weekend on the coasts of Kenya and Tanzania.

Ruto said the storm is expected to “cause torrential rain, strong winds and powerful and dangerous waves.”

Around 210 people have died in Kenya due to flood-related incidents and almost 100 are missing, while 165,000 have been forced to flee their homes, according to government data.

“No corner of our country has been spared from these ravages,” Ruto said. “Unfortunately, we have not seen the last of this dangerous period.”

The Kenya Meteorological Department said Cyclone Hidaya was expected to hit coastal areas with powerful winds exceeding 40 knots and ocean waves more than two meters (more than six feet) high.

On Thursday, the Interior Ministry had ordered anyone living near rivers or major dams to leave the area within 24 hours or face “mandatory evacuation for their safety.”

So far, about 210 people have died in Kenya due to flood-related incidents.
So far, about 210 people have died in Kenya due to flood-related incidents. © LUIS TATO / AFP/Archive

It warned that 178 dams and water reservoirs were full or almost full and could overflow, posing a risk to people in their surroundings.

Opposition politicians and pressure groups have accused the government of being unprepared and responding slowly despite weather warnings.

‘Maximum precautions’

Cyclone Hidaya will peak at gusts of 165 kilometers (100 miles) per hour when it makes landfall in Tanzania on Saturday, according to the Climate Prediction and Applications Center of the East African trading bloc IGAD.

The cyclone season in the southwestern Indian Ocean typically lasts from November to April, and there are about a dozen storms each year.

The Tanzania Meteorological Authority said in a statement released on Saturday that the cyclone was about 125 kilometers from the main city of Dar es Salaam on Friday night, causing strong winds and heavy rain in several coastal areas.

He has advised people living in risk areas and those participating in marine activities to take “maximum precautions.”

At least 155 people have died in Tanzania floods
At least 155 people have died in Tanzania floods © – / AFP

At least 155 people have already died in Tanzania from floods and landslides that have destroyed crops and devoured homes.

East Africa is very vulnerable to climate change and this year’s rainfall has been amplified by the El Niño weather pattern, a natural weather phenomenon typically associated with increased heat around the world that causes droughts in some parts of the world and heavy downpours elsewhere.

Heavier than usual rains have also claimed at least 29 lives in Burundi and displaced tens of thousands since September, the United Nations said.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said it was “particularly concerned” about the thousands of refugees who had been displaced in Burundi, Kenya, Somalia and Tanzania.

“(They are) being forced to flee once again to save their lives after their homes were razed,” UNHCR spokesperson Olga Sarrado Mur said on Friday.

Late last year, more than 300 people died from rains and floods in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, just as the region was trying to recover from its worst drought in four decades.