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Deadly Cyclone Freddy Pummels Mozambique for 2nd Time

Trees are strewn across a street in Quelimane, Mozambique, March 11, 2023.
Trees are strewn across a street in Quelimane, Mozambique, March 11, 2023.

Cyclone Freddy pummeled Mozambique Saturday, killing one person, ripping roofs off houses, and triggering a lockdown in one port town, a resident and local media said, two weeks after 27 died when the storm first made landfall.

Freddy, one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the southern hemisphere, started sweeping onshore by 10 p.m. local time (2000 GMT), satellite data showed, after hours of battering the southern African coast with rain.

It was the second time the cyclone struck the country since it was named after being spotted near Indonesia on February 6.

"The town is a no-go zone; no shops or businesses open. Everything is closed. We're locked up," resident Vania Massingue said by telephone from her house in the port settlement of Quelimane, located in the storm's path in the central Zambezia province. "I can see some houses with roofs torn apart, broken windows and the streets [are] flooded. It's really scary."

Freddy could break record

After swirling for 34 days, the weather system is likely to have broken the record for the longest-lasting tropical cyclone. According to the World Meteorological Organization, the previous record was held by a 31-day hurricane in 1994.

State broadcaster TVM said one person died when his house collapsed, and that the power utility had switched off the electricity completely as a precaution. All flights were suspended, it added.

The cyclone is slow-moving, which meteorological experts say means it will pick up more moisture off the sea, bringing heavy rainfall.

Climate change

Around the world, climate change is making hurricanes wetter, windier and stronger, scientists say. Oceans absorb much of the heat from greenhouse gas emissions, and when warm seawater evaporates its heat energy is transferred to the atmosphere, fueling more destructive storms.

More than 171,000 people were affected after the cyclone swept through southern Mozambique last month, bringing heavy rains and floods that damaged crops and destroyed houses, with OCHA putting its death toll at 27 so far —10 in Mozambique and 17 in Madagascar.

More than half a million people are at risk in Mozambique this time, notably in Zambezia, Tete, Sofala and Nampula provinces.

Freddy, which is also expected to hit northeastern Zimbabwe, southeast Zambia and Malawi, has set a record for the highest accumulated cyclone energy, a measure of the storm's strength over time, of any southern hemisphere storm in history, according to the U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration.