I’m saddened to see the awful news from Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, where tropical cyclone Idai has caused widespread devastation and loss of life. Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi has said that up to a 1,000 people may have died in the areas hit hardest by the storm.
The cyclone made landfall in Beira, Mozambique’s fourth-largest city, last Thursday before moving further inland towards Zimbabwe’s eastern Chimanimani district. Earlier, its outer bands had already caused massive damage in parts of Malawi. It brought with it winds of up to 106 mph and torrential rains that have caused widespread floods and irreparable damage.
The full extent of the devastation is not yet known, as roads have been flooded or destroyed, making it difficult for emergency teams to reach some of the more remote communities in the cyclone’s path. This footage gives an idea of the level of devastation in Beira, where officials have estimated that up to 90% of all buildings and infrastructure have been destroyed. Every building in this city of more than 500,000 people is said to have been damaged. Some coastal lands have been turned into enormous bodies of water.
My thoughts are with everyone affected by this catastrophe, and we are currently reaching out to friends and networks to see how we can support the rescue and relief efforts now underway.
In the face of the devastation, I can’t help to think that natural disasters like this one are a powerful reminder that humanity is paying a terrible price for the way we treat our planet. While Mozambique and Zimbabwe are vulnerable to periodic flooding during the rainy season, current estimates would make this the deadliest tropical cyclone on record to have hit southern Africa.
It’s a lesson we’ve been taught countless times before - as extreme weather events are likely to hit more often due to a changing climate, we must do more to avoid total destruction becoming the norm. As we learned with Hurricanes Irma and Maria in the Caribbean in 2017, low-lying cities and towns are enormously vulnerable to sea-level rise and extreme weather events. And while reducing further greenhouse gas emissions will be critical to stave off a catastrophic climate breakdown, we must also redouble our efforts to invest in more resilient infrastructure and communities around the world.
To support the humanitarian effort, make a donation to the UN’s Crisis Relief appeal.