Cyclone Favio rampages through coastal town

Cyclone Favio tore through Mozambique’s central province of Inhambane on Thursday leaving a trail of destruction as it headed towards the country's second city, Beira.

Favio struck the coastal town of Vilanculos, a popular tourist destination, as a category four tropical cyclone, reportedly ripping through rooftops, uprooting trees and damaging the electricity grid. Power to the town has been cut off.

"In one word: devastation," Cally Donaldson, who runs a tourist complex three kilometres outside the main town, told IRIN.

The first signs of Favio’s arrival were felt in the early morning and "by 9 am we were loosing our roofs and it is still going. The wind is pounding and the rain is pelting down," Donaldson said.

Later on Thursday evening Favio was reduced to a category three tropical cyclone with winds reaching 110 knots (204 km/h) and it is projected to decrease in strength as it tracks further inland at 16 km/h.

"It is very bad in Vilanculos but now it is heading towards Beira where they will start feeling it soon," Manuel Max, information officer at the Mozambique National Institute for Disaster (INGC), said.

''In one word: devastation''

Torrential rains accompanying the storm has sparked fears of further flooding in the Zambezi valley where an estimated 120,000 Mozambicans have already been driven from their homes.

But, Manuel said, the INGC had initially expected Favio to head further west, avoiding the areas devastated by the ongoing floods. "We are closely monitoring its trajectory," he added.

The impact of Favio has already been felt in Madagascar after it scraped the southern tip of the Indian Ocean island on Tuesday, disrupting relief operations trying to reach 582,000 people struggling to cope with the aftermath of a drought in the south, and flooding that has left at least three dead and displaced 33,000 throughout the country.

The storm caused heavy rains that reduced road access to the southeastern parts of the island, said Gianluca Ferrera, WFP deputy country director for Madagascar.

Madagascar is currently in the middle of a "cyclone season" with the next one, Gamede, expected to slam into the island's east coast early next week. Six cyclones have already hit, with ‘Bondo’ at the end of December and ‘Clovis’ in January, causing the most damage.

The Malagasy government has declared a national emergency and appealed for US$ 243 million in international aid - mainly for infrastructure reconstruction and agricultural rehabilitation.