Zimbabwe is safe from tropical storms – Dingani, Freddy File Picture

Sifelani Tsiko Agric, Environment & Innovations Editor
The Meteorological Services Department (MSD) says the country is safe for now from tropical storms Dingani and Freddy which are evolving and intensifying some 4 600km away in the Indian Ocean.

MSD agro-meteorologist and long-range forecaster Benjamin Kwenda told the Herald on Friday that the two tropical storms pose no direct risk or threat to Zimbabwe at the current time.

“Zimbabwe is still safe for now. The cyclones are still very, very far away. There is no need to mention them as yet,” he said.

“We are monitoring developments in the Indian Ocean basin to see if there is anything that could possibly affect us. Presently, there is nothing that could be a cause of concern.”

As at February 10, tropical storm Dingani, with a maximum speed of 110km/h was located 2106 km east-southeast of Diego Garcia, which is more than 4626km away from Zimbabwe.

Weather forecasters in Indian ocean islands say despite a lacklustre performance over the past several days, Dingani had begun its intensification phase.

Cyclone Dingani was formed on 28 January and was moving towards Mauritius and Reunion, some islands on the Indian Ocean.

Weather experts said it was travelling at a speed of 85 km/ hr and was expected to change its speed to 100 km by February 11.

“Landfalls are likely to occur in Mauritius and Reunion but not yet confirmed because it is likely to twist its direction,” the forecasters said.

Tropical Cyclone Freddy was formed near the north-western coast of Australia and was heading towards African Islands.

The tropical depression was formed on February 3 and was said to be moving at a wind speed of 95km/hr.

Kwenda said they will continue tracking the tropical cyclones and keep the nation updated as events unfold.

Cyclones are common in summer in southern Africa and come with extreme flooding, strong, damaging winds, storm surges and significant rainfall.

The bulk of rainfall in Zimbabwe and most parts of southern Africa is strongly influenced by the seasonal shifts of the ITCZ coupled with rare and episodic occurrences of cyclone-induced rains.

The ITCZ changes position during the year, moving between the Equator and the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Southern Africa normally receives the bulk of its annual rainfall from November through March as the ITCZ moves south.

In a normal southern African rainy season, the ITCZ influence covers central Tanzania to southern Zimbabwe and is associated with favourable rainfall.

Africa has incurred economic losses of up to US$5 billion due to weather-related disasters that have hit the continent and other parts of the world over the past five decades, according to a 2021 World Meteorological Organization report.

According to the WMO Atlas of Mortality and Economic Losses from Weather, Climate and Water Extremes (1970 – 2019), Africa recorded 1 695 disasters that caused the loss of 731 747 lives and $5 billion in economic losses.

The continent accounts for 15 percent of weather, climate, and water-related disasters, 35 percent of associated deaths and one per cent of economic losses reported globally.

Although disasters associated with floods were the most prevalent, at 60 percent, droughts led to the highest number of deaths, accounting for 95 per cent of all lives lost in the region, with most occurring in Ethiopia, Mozambique and Sudan.

Southern Africa has also not been spared from weather-related disasters. The region is now experiencing an average or above-average number of tropical cyclones every season.

Cyclone Eline of 2000, was one of the worst because of its associated floods.

Southern parts of Mozambique, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana were hardest hit, with two million people affected in Mozambique and 650 000 forced to abandon their homes.

Cyclone Idai of 2019 was recorded as one of the worst tropical storms to ever affect Africa and the southern hemisphere.

It affected central and southern Mozambique, southern Malawi, and eastern Zimbabwe causing severe flooding and destroying infrastructure and large tracts of cropland in the three Sadc countries.

An estimated three million people in the three countries were affected.

Tropical Cyclone Idai brought heavy rainfall and strong winds to Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe between March 5 and 19, 2019, causing severe flooding which led to the loss of lives, destruction of infrastructure, disruption of livelihoods and destruction of crops.

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