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Floods and high winds hit Mozambique as record-breaking cyclone Freddy nears

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Cyclone Freddy was settling off the coast of Mozambique on Saturday, bringing flooding and high winds to Quelimane two weeks after killing at least 27 people in southern Africa when it first made landfall last month.

“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 town, which is located in the country’s Zambezia central province.

Freddy, one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the southern hemisphere, seemed to have stalled offshore, satellite data showed, but was still battering the coast with rain and was potentially hours away from coming onto land for a second time since it was named on Feb. 6.

After swirling for 34 days straight, 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.

“I can see some houses with roofs torn apart, broken windows and the streets flooded. It’s really scary,” said Massingue, who works for a local environmental charity.

State channel TVM reported that the power utility had switched off the electricity completely as a precaution, and that all flights were suspended.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

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

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, fuelling 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, especially around in Zambezia, Tete, Sofala and Nampula and Zambezia 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.

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Satellite imagery shows Tropical Cyclone Freddy approaching Madagascar in this undated satellite handout image obtained February 20, 2023. NASA Worldview/Handout via REUTERS

Fallen branches are seen on a street as Storm Freddy is due to hit Mozambique again, in Quelimane, Zambezia, Mozambique, March 11, 2023, in this screengrab obtained from a video. UNICEF Mozambique/2023/Alfredo Zuniga/Handout via REUTERS

A teenager works on the roof of his house as Storm Freddy is due to hit Mozambique again, in the Nicoadala district, near Quelimane, Zambezia, Mozambique, March 10, 2023, in this screengrab obtained from a video. UNICEF Mozambique/2023/Alfredo Zuniga/Handout via REUTERS
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