Sea level rises and extreme rainfall as a result of climate change caused a deadly cyclone in southern Africa this week. Millions have been displaced and 300 people are confirmed dead in Mozambique and Zimbabwe, with the toll expected to rise.

Cyclone Idai made landfall in Mozambique on 15 March before continuing west to Malawi and Zimbabwe, and social media is awash with criticism of the world’s media for being slow to report on the scale of the disaster.


The UN’s World Food Programme reports that in Mozambique alone, at least 1000 people are feared dead and 1.7 million people are estimated to have been in the cyclone’s path. 920,000 people are affected in Malawi and “thousands more” are impacted in Zimbabwe. According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Cyclone Idai has destroyed 90% of the Mozambican city of Beira. Heavy rain is hampering the humanitarian response.

Jamie LeSueur, who lead the IFRC assessment team into Beira, said that it is “the worst humanitarian crisis in Mozambique’s recent history” and that “large parts of Beira have been damaged” and “entire villages and towns have been completely flooded”.

LeSueur said: Rescuers are scrambling to pull people trapped on rooftops and in trees to safety. Many, many families have lost everything.”

UN Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) Mami Mizutori said that there was an urgent need to “break the cycle of disaster-response-recovery” through “greater investment in resilient infrastructure”. She said:

Speaking to the Guardian, Dr Friederike Otto, from Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute, said that there are “three factors with storms like this: rainfall, storm surge and wind“. He said that “rainfall levels are on the increase because of climate change, and storm surges are more severe because of sea level rises“.

Writing on the Grist, Eric Holthaus said:

“Cyclone Idai should be a sobering reminder that in many parts of the world, people don’t have the luxury of ignoring climate change. Its destruction is already here.”


Read more about five measures that EU governments can take to tackle climate change as the world braces for increasing extreme weather events.

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