From the Field

2019 Cyclone Idai: Facts, FAQs, and how to help

Cyclone Idai made landfall near Beira city, Mozambique, on March 14, 2019, as a Category 2 storm. Its heavy rains and strong winds led to flash flooding, hundreds of deaths, and massive destruction of property and crops. Less than six weeks later, on April 25, Cyclone Kenneth dealt a hard blow to northern Mozambique about 600 miles north of Idai’s impact zone.

Catastrophic flooding from the two storms affected close to 2.2 million people in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi. Idai and Kenneth were two of the top five worst storms to ever hit Mozambique. Together, they’ve caused an unprecedented amount of damage.

A massive relief operation is assisting survivors with food, clean water, shelter, and child protection.

You can deliver hope and practical help when disasters strike.

Cyclone Idai, Cyclone Kenneth, and Southeast African floods timeline

March 3 – The tropical disturbance that would become Cyclone Idai develops and begins to strengthen near the coast of Africa.

March 5 – Heavy rains cause severe flooding across Mozambique and Malawi.

March 11 – Now a tropical depression, the storm builds in intensity between coastal Africa and Madagascar.

March 14 to 15 – Tropical Cyclone Idai makes landfall near Beira, Mozambique, as a Category 2 storm with sustained winds exceeding 105 mph.

March 20 – Heavy rains continue along with search and rescue operations and damage assessments.

March 21 to 27 – Governments and humanitarian aid agencies begin responding with life-saving relief supplies to the affected areas.

March 28 – The Mozambique government calls off the search for survivors of Cyclone Idai.

April 2Cholera cases in Mozambique top 1,400, according to health officials.

April 25 – Cyclone Kenneth hits northern Mozambique with winds above 125 mph.

Cyclone Kenneth hits northern Mozambique and southern Tanzania just six weeks after Cyclone Idai
Early on April 25, Cyclone Kenneth is shown passing over the Comoro islands in the Indian Ocean as it approaches the coastlines of southern Tanzania and northern Mozambique. (Map courtesy of the Pacific Disaster Center)

FAQs: What you need to know about Cyclone Idai and Cyclone Kenneth

Find answers to frequently asked questions about the cyclones in Southeast Africa, including how you can help people affected by disasters.

Where did Cyclone Idai and Cyclone Kenneth develop?

Cyclone Idai developed in the Mozambique channel between Mozambique and Madagascar. Often, storms that develop there don’t strengthen as much as those that form north and east of Madagascar, but Cyclone Idai was fed by warm water temperatures.

Tropical Cyclone Kenneth formed north of Madagascar and the Mozambique Channel. Fed by warm ocean temperatures, it strengthened from a Category 1 to a Category 4 storm in the 24 hours ahead of making landfall on April 25.

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Where and when did they make landfall?

Starting on the evening of March 14, Cyclone Idai made landfall in Beira, Mozambique, a coastal city of half a million people. The fierce storm pummeled Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe with strong winds and rains.

Cyclone Kenneth made landfall near Pemba, Mozambique, in the late afternoon of April 25, 2019, with sustained winds clocked at 140 mph. The greatest force of Kenneth was expended in a sparsely populated area, so the storm caused fewer deaths and less destruction than Cyclone Idai.

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How much damage did the cyclones cause?

Cyclone Idai wiped out roads, bridges, and dams as it swept through Southeast Africa. The United Nations estimated that Cyclone Idai and subsequent flooding destroyed more than $773 million in buildings, infrastructure, and crops. More than 100,000 homes were damaged or destroyed.

Cyclone Kenneth is estimated to have destroyed about $100 million worth of homes, crops, and infrastructure, including boats and equipment belonging to coastal fishing villages.

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What is the death toll from the cyclones?

More than 1,000 people died from Cyclone Idai and Cyclone Kenneth.

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What’s the difference between a hurricane, typhoon, and cyclone?

Hurricanes form in the Atlantic and Caribbean, cyclones in the Indian Ocean, and typhoons in the Asia-Pacific region. Scientifically, they are all known as tropical cyclones.

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How have people been affected by the cyclones and flooding?

Hundreds of thousands became homeless and displaced. Many people lost family members and friends and saw their communities devastated. Cases of cholera, malaria, diarrhea, and respiratory infections increased due to poor living conditions.

In cyclone-affected areas of Mozambique and Zimbabwe, about 3 million people still don’t have adequate food. Cyclone damage, drought, crop pests, and insecurity have contributed to their heightened need. About 75,000 people are still displaced from the cyclones and many lack basic services. Relief agencies are concerned that everyone obtains adequate shelter before the rainy season begins in November.

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How can I help people affected by disasters?

  • Pray for people who are in need and the aid workers who are bringing relief.
  • Give to World Vision’s disaster relief fund to help families affected by disasters like the southern African cyclones.

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What is World Vision doing to help people affected by the cyclone and flooding?

World Vision is mounting a disaster response in Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe, where we already have operated for years.

Our initial focus is on food and nutrition, water and sanitation, household goods and shelter assistance, health, child protection, and education.

We’ve reached thousands of people in need and are helping them to recover.

Mozambique

  • Families received food assistance, hygiene kits, and shelter kits.
  • More than 8,000 boys and girls have participated in Child-Friendly Spaces.
  • Water and sanitation are being improved; 16 water points have been repaired or constructed, and more than 8,000 new latrines are available.
  • Families are learning to raise chickens and receiving seeds and equipment to restore their livelihoods.
  • More than 2,000 children have been equipped to return to school or vocational education.

Malawi

  • Families received food, household goods, and shelter items.
  • About 15,000 households received cash assistance; 3,500 received seeds, fertilizer, and farm tools.
  • Families were assisted with water purification and received bath and laundry soaps.
  • Boys and girls are participating in a Child-Friendly Space.

Zimbabwe

  • Families received hygiene kits and kitchen and household items.
  • More than 50,000 people have received food assistance.
  • Families are rebuilding livelihoods through assistance with farm and poultry production.
  • About 400 children are benefiting from Child-Friendly Spaces.
  • About 2,000 children under 5 have been screened for malnutrition.

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Learn more about cyclones, typhoons, and hurricanes — how they form and how to prepare.

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