Six dead as category three cyclone hits northern coast

Tropical cyclone Jokwe killed six people and destroyed several thousand homes as it hit the northern coast of Mozambique on 7-8 March, according to a senior disaster management official.

Bonifácio Antonio, director of the relief coordination department of the National Disaster Management Institute (INGC) said at least 9,000 houses and more than 200 small boats were destroyed in Nampula Province, and the strong winds accompanying the cyclone blew off the roofs of at least 80 schools.

"At least 25,000 families live in the risk area, in the coastal areas in the north; we are still trying to assess the damage and the number of people who have been left homeless," he said. The impact of Jokwe, a category three cyclone, was not as severe as Favio in 2007, a category four cyclone that destroyed the coastal town of Vilanculos, killing 10 people in the southern province of Inhambane.

Antonio said tents and food had been dispatched to the affected areas, while the army was helping to clear roads blocked by trees struck down by winds that reached speeds of around 200km per hour.

Jokwe has continued to move in a southwesterly direction down the Mozambique Channel. Mussa Mustafa, head of Mozambique's Meteorological Institute (INAM), told IRIN the impact of the cyclone was felt on 10 March in Zambezia Province, which received some rainfall, and that the windstorm was due to reach Sofala and Inhambane provinces, further south, on 11 March.

The cyclone season is expected to last until April. "So we are bracing ourselves for more - there is one already forming on the other side of Madagascar," said Antonio.

According to meteorologists, the 2008 cyclone season in the southwestern Indian Ocean has delivered what might be the highest number of cyclones in a decade because of the climate phenomenon called La Niña.

La Niña is characterised by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean, recorded every three to four years, which cause a ripple effect felt across the globe, making wet regions wetter and dry ones drier.