The ocean has come for the coastal African nation of Mozambique. Tropical Cyclone Idai, a devastating storm that pummeled the country with fierce winds, was followed by a massive flood that has obliterated dams, swept away homes and bridges, erased roads, shuttered airports, and damaged 90 percent of the city of Beira, home to more than 500,000 people. There are bodies in the water and no one to collect them, making diseases like cholera an imminent threat.
More than 1,000 are confirmed dead, a number that is sure to rise. Thousands more are homeless and seeking refuge. “Many people were waiting for food, water and medicine,” reports The New York Times, “in makeshift shelters in primary schools and other government buildings.” Satellite imagery over Mozambique shows a new flood-made inland sea that is 30 miles wide in places. “We’ve never had something of this magnitude before in Mozambique,” said non-governmental organization coordinator Emma Beatty. To the west in Zimbabwe and Malawi, more than 100 people are known dead, hundreds more are missing and the damage is extensive.
“There are at least three major ways that the Mozambique floods are related to climate change,” reports Eric Holthaus for Grist. “First, a warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor, which makes rainfall more intense. Idai produced more than two feet of rainfall in parts of the region — nearly a year’s worth in just a few days. Second, the region had been suffering from a severe drought in recent years in line with climate projections of overall drying in the region, hardening the soil and enhancing runoff. Third, sea levels are about a foot higher than a century ago, which worsens the effect of coastal flooding farther inland.”
For years, stories of massive climate disasters such as these may have felt distant to many U.S. readers, but the climate crisis has arrived here, too.
A massive climate…