Elita Chikwati and Rumbidzayi Zinyuke
Tropical Storm Ana, the first tropical storm of this year’s south-west Indian Ocean cyclone season, made landfall over the Nampula province of Mozambique yesterday after crossing the Mozambique Channel from Madagascar.
Reasonably heavy rainfall of more than 50mm and strong winds are expected in north-east and eastern Zimbabwe and in southern Malawi from today.
Manicaland and Mashonaland East have taken special precautions by activating district civil protection units and while no evacuations have yet been ordered any flooded low lying area can be promptly evacuated if the need arises.
A tropical storm ranks above a tropical depression but below a tropical cyclone. Ana lost energy over Madagascar then as a depression picked up more energy as tracked west across the Mozambique Channel, was reclassified as a moderate tropical storm and by last night was starting to lose energy again. After making landfall a tropical storm loses energy and fairly soon Ana will degenerate back into a tropical depression before fading out.
The Meteorological Services Department issued a standard storm warning yesterday that heavy rains may reduce visibility and induce localised flash-flooding in areas with poor drainage.
“Destructive winds may result in trees falling and blown-off roof tops. Some dams are filled to capacity; this can cause downstream flooding should the dams spill,” said the department.
The public was warned about swollen rivers and not to drive through floodwaters as just 30cm of flowing water over a low bridge or through a ford is enough to sweep away a vehicle.
“Clearance of waterways and s0 drainages helps reduce the impacts of heavy rains. Ensure roof-tops are secure by checking nails that may be loose,” said the department, giving the usual warning about lightning during thunderstorms.
The Department of Civil Protection put in place what are now the normal precautions in case there is any flooding or other effects.
The rainfall of over 50 mm and stronger winds are expected in all thre Mashonaland provinces and Harare Metropolitan, Manicaland and Midlands with light rains and moderate to strong winds projected for the two Matabeleland provinces, Bulawayo Metropolitan and Masvingo.
Only Nyanga (11mm) and Zaka (8mm) had the start of the heavier rainfall.
The director of civil protection, Mr Nathan Nkomo, yesterday said his department had engaged the Grain Marketing Board to release 50 tonnes of maize per province to cater for emergency needs of anyone in areas that may be flooded out if they are in low-lying or poorly drained areas. More can be supplied later if necessary. The department also has petty cash allocations for any sudden emergency need.
Two units of the Air Force of Zimbabwe were put on standby for any transport or rescue work with Josiah Tungamirai Airbase servicing the southern parts while Manyame Airbase will focus on the northern parts.
Manicaland and Mashonaland East, which are likely to bear the brunt of the storm, have activated their district Civil Protection Units.
Mr Nkomo said Manicaland had learnt a lot from Cyclone Idai and was “fully geared for any eventuality”.
“If there is need for evacuations, Zupco will be on standby to move people into evacuation centres. Since school children are not in school, we will use the schools to accommodate those in need,” he said.
Chimanimani District, said Mr Nkomo, has an evacuation centre which could accommodate about 200 people in the Rusitu Valley.
Mashonaland East has put in place a plan to evacuate those in affected areas.
“We need our communities to understand that we cannot stop the storm but we can minimise its impact through evacuation. In future, we might need to reorganise our communities,” said Mr Nkomo.
Manicaland Secretary for Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Mr Edgars Seenza, yesterday said all district civil protection units were carrying out awareness campaigns as well as disseminating information to people about Tropical Storm Ana.
“We are also using texts and WhatsApp messages so that many people are aware of the heavy rains expected. We are urging people in flood-prone areas to move to higher grounds and identified evacuation centres across the province.
“Those moving to evacuation centres should carry food that will last for three or four days, bedding and their medication. So far, we have not received any reports of areas receiving very high rainfall, save for Nyanga which received 11mm today (yesterday).”