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Tropical Cyclone Eloise moves inland, bringing heavy rains to southern Zimbabwe

Tropical Cyclone Eloise made landfall in central Mozambique on Saturday, January 23, 2021 near the coastal city of Beira, with winds of 140 kilometres per hour (km/h) and gusts up to 160 km/h, according to Mozambique’s National Institute of Meteorology (INAM).

Topical Cyclone Eloise
Storm Eloise made landfall in Mozambique on Saturday, January 23, 2021. Photo credit: Gauteng Weather FB

The weather institute said that Beira received 250 mm of rain in 24 hours, while other areas that were flooded ahead of Eloise’s landfall, including Buzi and Nhamatanda, also received additional heavy rains.

After landfall, Eloise downgraded to a moderate tropical storm with a maximum wind speed of 83 km/h. The weather system continues to move in a westerly direction, bringing high amounts of rainfall in its wake, according to the South Africa Weather Services (SAWS).

Luisa Meque, president of Mozambique’s National Institute for Disaster Risk Management and Reduction (INGD), has noted that it is too early to quantify the extent and scale of the destruction, but that the damage in Beira appears to be mild. Electricity was down in parts of the city and communications networks were damaged.

However, teams were out assessing pylons and transmission lines on Saturday with a view to beginning repairs as soon as possible. The Munhava Barrio and Praia Nova are both areas of concern in Beira, with provincial authorities reporting damages and flooding in both locations.

Prior to making landfall, Eloise brought heavy rains and strong winds to Zambezia Province, reportedly uprooting trees and damaging some buildings, including in the provincial capital, Quelimane.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Southern and Eastern Africa the predominant concern remains the risk of severe flooding. Many rivers in Mozambique’s central and southern regions, which Tropical Storm Eloise will impact, are already above alert levels.

The National Directorate of Water Resources Management (DNGRH) reported that the Buzi basin alert level is increasing, with the risk of more floods, and the water levels in the Save River basin are rising, posing a flood risk to the villages of Nova Mambone, in Govuro, Inhambane Province, and Machanga, in Sofala Province.

Alerts continue to indicate the potential for significant flooding in the Limpopo River basin from next week.

After crossing Mozambique, the Eloise weather system is expected to bring heavy rains over the weekend to southern Zimbabwe, Eswatini, northern South Africa and far eastern Botswana, according to Meteo France.

In Zimbabwe, Manicaland and Mashonaland East Provinces have experienced light rains since 22 January, which are predicted to intensify and spread throughout Matabeleland South, southern areas of Midlands, Masvingo and Manicaland provinces, according to the Department of Civil Protection (DCP).

In Manicaland Province, Chipinge and Chimanimani districts, which were hardest-hit by Cyclone Idai in 2019, have received heavy rainfall. In Chipinge district, the Chisengu meteorological station has recorded 140 mm of rain, while in Chimanimani district, rain and wind have been reported since 22 January.

In Masvingo Province, there are reports that some areas of Chiredzi, Bikita, Chivi and Masvingo districts received significant rain from the evening of 22 January to the morning of 23 January.

At the same time, multiple dams are either at, or exceeding, capacity. The Tokwe Mukosi dam in Maszvingo Province is 97.25 per cent full and is expected to spill in the next couple of days, while Manyuchi Dam—located in Mwenezi District of the same province—has already started spilling. Ward 24 of Masvingo district is the most affected by the flooding of the Tokwe Mukosi Dam.

In South Africa, the South African Weather Service (SAWS) has issued an alert for disruptive rain over northern Limpopo from Saturday evening, spreading to additional areas of Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal from 24 to 25 January. Limpopo municipalities on orange alert for 23 January are Ba-Phalaborwa, Greater Giyani, Makhado, Maruleng, Musina, New Collins Chabane and Thulamela.

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