Elita Chikwati and Rumbidzayi Zinyuke, Harare Bureau
Tropical Cyclone Idai, which made landfall in Mozambique Thursday evening, has damaged property and crops in Manicaland Province, with more devastating effects feared when it intensifies and spreads to other parts of Zimbabwe between yesterday evening and today.
Manicaland chief meteorological officer Mr Lucas Murambi said what the province experienced yesterday were the peripheral effects of the cyclone, before it hits the province with more intense rains.
In Mutare, vendors at Sakubva Musika escaped death by a whisker after a section of the roof at the popular market was blown off by strong winds, accompanied by rains.
The cyclone also blew off roofs to four houses in Chipinge district.
Farmers in Manicaland recorded massive losses as most of the crops that had survived the dry spell were destroyed by the tropical cyclone.
The province has been experiencing heavy rainfall accompanied by strong winds since Thursday, as a result of the cyclone. Most of the damage has so far been recorded in Mutasa, Chipinge, Mutare and Chimanimani districts.
Some schools in Manicaland were yesterday forced to cancel lessons mid-morning to ensure the safety of pupils and teachers. Heavy rains totalling more than 150 millimetres were recorded yesterday in some areas, mainly in Manicaland, Masvingo, Matabeleland South, southern areas of Midlands and Mashonaland East provinces.
The cyclone had by late afternoon yesterday killed 122 people in Mozambique and Malawi and caused severe flooding in Madagascar which affected hundreds of thousands of people.
“The cyclone is taking a north-west direction and is expected to hit the northern parts of Mutare in areas like Mutasa and Nyanga, before moving towards Mutoko,” said Mr Murambi. “Although we expect the strength of the cyclone to diminish as it moves towards Zimbabwe, due to the mountainous terrain, we still expect more rains.”
The Meteorological Services Department yesterday said in a statement that the cyclone was expected to weaken over the Eastern Highlands and downgrade into a low pressure centre when it reaches the southern parts of Mutoko today.
Yesterday, the MSD recorded rainfall in Manicaland, with Chisengu recording 153mm, Chipinge 56mm, Mukandi 16mm, Mutare 10mm, Wedza 8mm and Rusape 8mm.
“Cloudy conditions progressively covered much of the country, with strong winds, rain and drizzle trailing closely behind the clouds edge,” said the MSD. “As Tropical Cyclone Idai continues to track further inland (West-North-West along the periphery of the subtropical ridge) it is expected to weaken rapidly due to increasing frictional effects and dry air entrainment, and is expected to gradually disappear by 36 hour forecast.
“However, more rainfall activity both in amount and intensity is forecast to stretch further and reach places in Mashonaland Central, Harare Metropolitan and Midlands provinces.”
The MSD said it will continue to closely monitor the system for signs of regeneration.
The Department of Civil Protection yesterday held an urgent civil protection committee meeting with all the relevant stakeholders and came up with a prioritised plan. “We are activating sub-national structures and held an urgent meeting with stakeholders who include officials from fire engine, Airforce of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe National Army, police sub aqua and development partners, including Red Cross, Save the Children, World Vision and International Organisation for Migration that are in the shelter cluster,” said the department’s director, Mr Nathan Nkomo.
“We have come up with a prioritised action plan from now until the critical period tomorrow (Sunday). We are also assisting with logistical arrangements and have transferred petty cash to Manicaland, north eastern parts of Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central, excluding Bindura.”
Mr Nkomo said Gokwe will also be affected by the cyclone as it was along the Zambezi Valley.
He urged communities to be on the lookout for flooding or rising water levels and quickly move to safe places when necessary to do so.
All open pits near homes, schools and along children’s pathways must be filled up or closed, children must be supervised and never play near pools, rivers and streams and communities need to be on the lookout for fallen or dangling electrical power lines and report such to the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company or to the nearest police station.