Tropical storm Dineo batters coastal towns in Mozambique

by Reuters
Wednesday, 15 February 2017 19:51 GMT

In this 2013 file photo, a man rides a bike over a railway line in Moatize in Tete province, Mozambique. REUTERS/Agnieszka Flak

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Mozambique is especially vulnerable to flooding following a scorching drought last year

(Adds cyclone makes landfall)

By Manuel Mucari

MAPUTO, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Tropical storm Dineo, which has been building along the east coast of southern Africa, made landfall in Mozambique on Wednesday evening, battering two coastal towns with heavy rain and wind at speeds of up to 160 km (100 miles) an hour.

In Inhambane, some 500 km north of the capital Maputo, television footage showed roofs blown off houses, electricity pylons uprooted and trees sprawled across the streets.

There were however no immediate reports of deaths or injuries. The government's emergency services had yet to give an update on the situation.

One resident told Reuters the storm had also hit the town of Massinga, 75 km from Inhambane.

Dineo was expected to develop into a Category 1 cyclone with winds at more than 130 km an hour, South Africa's National Forecasting Centre said in a statement.

"This is still a formidable storm system which has the potential to cause much damage to coastal and inland infrastructure," the centre said.

One of the world's poorest countries and also in the throes of a financial crisis, Mozambique is prone to flooding. It is especially vulnerable after a major drought last year as soils degraded or hardened by dry spells do not easily absorb water.

Mozambique's National Institute for Disaster Management urged residents in the coastal cities of Inhambane and Maxixe and surrounding villages to reinforce their roofs, to protect windows and to stockpile food and water.

Mozambique was last hit by two cyclones in January 2012, which killed 26 people and displaced more than 125,000, according to official data.

South African petrochemicals group Sasol Ltd said it had suspended drilling activity at its oil and gas field in Inhambane due to the approaching cyclone. (Additional reporting by Ed Stoddard and Wendell Roelf in Johannesburg; Writing by Tiisetso Motsoeneng and Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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