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|Saturday 18 February 2017
Tropical Cyclone Dineo brings death and destruction to impoverished Mozambique
On the afternoon of Wednesday 15 February, Tropical Cyclone Dineo made landfall between the cities of Massinga and Inhambane, Mozambique, 400km NE of the capital Maputo according to the Emergency Response Co-ordination Centre (ERCC). With sustained winds of 130km/h gusting to 170km/h accompanied by heavy rain, Reuters reported on 16 February, seven people died, about 20,000 homes were destroyed and 130,000 people were affected by the disaster. On 17 February, Floodlist reported updated government-confirmed figures of nine dead and 653,000 people affected.
On the same day, Reliefweb reported estimated rainfall in the area as being between 100 and 200mm, and over 300mm on a UNITAR estimate in the immediate area of landfall. That article gives details of the weather situation at that time. Mozambique is prone to flooding, and a major drought last year degraded and hardened soils making them less absorbent. It is likely that much of the rain fell in short, torrential bursts from thunderstorms wrapping around the cyclone, and this behaviour is likely to continue as the tropical depression moves inland. A Global Precipitation Measurement satellite passed over Dineo when it was still in the Mozambique Channel on 14 February, measuring peak rain intensities of 132mm per hour according to Floodlist.
The tropical depression is moving SW into South Africa, bringing heavy rain there as well as to Zimbabwe and southern Mozambique.
Recent weather briefs - Africa
- Reliefweb reports that Malawi, NW of Mozambique, is also suffering flooding after heavy rain between 4 and 10 February occurred during an already above average wet season. It has been worst around the capital of Lilongwe where the river of the same name has broken its banks. About 35,000 people have been affected, 7,200 evacuated and livestock, household belongings and 18 square km of crops washed away.
- Reliefweb also reports that heavy snow in Algeria has isolated about 25,000 families in the eastern, central and high plateau regions. Much of the population is nomadic, and the snow has damaged tents and ruined livelihoods.
Recent weather briefs - Asia
- Cold weather, snow and heavy rain have been frequent in recent weeks in the Middle East. This video, taken on 16 February in the mountains around Artvin, 345m above sea level and in far NE Turkey, give an idea of the amount of snow. Light snow was also reported from Jordan. In Syria, says Floodlist, the Euphrates has risen by an estimated 10m since 24 January as a result of heavy rain and snow melt together with the actions of ISIL in opening three turbines of the Tabqa Dam, flooding riverside areas downstream according to the UN. The dam itself is damaged, and there are fears for those living downstream should the river rise much further.
- Severe flooding hit the Asir Province in far SW Saudi Arabia on Wednesday 14 February. Abha, its capital, recorded 90mm of rain in 24 hours, about its normal rainfall over the three months January to March. Floodlist reports that one person died, schools and roads were closed, and 280 people rescued, many of them in cars.
- The Times of Oman reported today* that hail and snow recently fell on two consecutive days in Oman's Musandam region at the entrance to the Persian Gulf. Snow also covered parts of the Al Hajar mountain range WSW of Muscat which rises to 3,000m in places. Not so unusual, except that it is the same latitude north of the equator as Rockhampton is south.
- Moving farther east, Afghanistan has experienced very heavy to record falls of snow, triggering avalanches and floods. Earlier in February, at least 137 people died in avalanches, with Nuristan Province in the country's mountainous north worst hit. The Guardian reported that 53 people died in one village alone, with conditions making movement and communications difficult. Reliefweb reported that three metres of snow fell and 17 avalanches occurred in a three-day period. Avalanches are fairly common in this disaster-prone country, as it also suffers earthquakes, flooding, drought and landslides. But the amount of snow this year has been exceptional, as these comparison satellite images from NASA's Earth Observatory show. The anomaly map, linked to in the text, suggests that parts of Afghanistan received between 100 and 500% more snow water equivalent than normal.
- Farther east again, and Mongolia is suffering its second dzud in a row. A dzud is an extreme weather phenomenon that is unique to Mongolia, when a summer drought that leaves little food for livestock is followed by a long winter of heavy snow and temperatures reaching -40° to -50°. The common wisdom is that dzuds happen every 12 years, but in recent times they have been occurring more frequently, and this one is happening after a dzud last winter that killed over 1 million livestock. This is not unprecedented - the winters between 1999 and 2002 saw three consecutive dzuds with a total loss of 11 million animals while the dzud of 2009-10, one of the most severe known, saw 9.7 million livestock die.
About one third of Mongolia's population of three million rely on livestock for food and income. While many retain a nomadic lifestyle, this is in transition and animals are no longer a chief means of transport. However, the situation is dire and relief agencies are battling to raise funds to help. This Thomson Reuters Foundation story gives a more detailed background, Associated Press has a good summary and this report from the International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies focuses on fund raising and distribution