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Another cyclone could devastate Zimbabwe in the New Year

A man looks at a washed away bridge along Umvumvu river following Cyclone Idai in Chimanimani, Zimbabwe, March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

The potential cyclone threat to Zimbabwe in around a week’s time is still a tropical depression north east of Mauritius and heading towards northern Madagascar, which may well have 100mm to 200mm of rain over this weekend.

It is only after it has passed over Madagascar and entered the Mozambique Channel that any potential danger to Zimbabwe can be assessed.

The depression may gradually dissipate, or move in a direction that imposes no threats. Or it could intensify into a tropical storm, in which case it will be the third of the present cyclone season and so get the “C” name from this season’s list, Chalane. And the storm could build up to a cyclone. Even then, most cyclones in the Channel do not get close to Zimbabwe.

But because some do, the threat is being taken seriously by those who have to prepare to cope, although experts agree that it is far too early to assess probabilities that any cyclone could reach Zimbabwe and if it does where it will hit. The last major cyclone to reach Zimbabwe, Cyclone Idai in March last year, hit Chimanimani.

The previous major cyclone, Cyclone Eline of February 2000, had a slightly different track but still coming in through the central Eastern Highlands and then moving right across Zimbabwe weakening as it did so and finally reaching Namibia as a minor depression.

Meteorological Services Department (MSD) yesterday advised the public to be calm but keep informed. The department is monitoring the progress of the depression, including its strength and direction of movement but at the moment it is an unnamed tropical depression in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Government has already mobilised Civil Protection teams which are on high alert especially in the eastern parts of the country should the warning firm up and swift action then needs to be taken. But at the moment the thrust is being ready and checking all plans are in place, rather than taking immediate action.

In an advisory yesterday, MSD said it was monitoring the tropical depression which was currently in the Indian Ocean. “A yet to be named tropical depression is situated in a quasi-stationary position near the centre of the Indian Ocean, to the north east of Mauritius, to the far east of Madagascar.

“On Thursday December 24, 0200hrs, it was near 14 degrees south and 60 degrees east and expected to track southwestward towards Madagascar in the coming days.

“As it steadily intensifies it might later become a tropical storm then a cyclone,” said MSD.

Noting that these tropical storms also tend to weaken when they make a landfall; the current system is anticipated to make initial landfall over Madagascar on Sunday December 27, and rejuvenate in the Mozambique Channel around Tuesday, December 2020. However due to the nature of such systems, this path and speed can change drastically.

“The Meteorological Services Department will continue to monitor intensity as well as the trajectory and update the public accordingly,” said the MSD.

Department of Civil Protection Unit, director Mr Nathan Nkomo said there was an Emergency Services sub-committee meeting on Wednesday, to plan for any cyclone. Mr Nkomo said the department was prepared and funding had been approved by Cabinet in November. – Herald.

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