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Tropical Cyclone Eloise slows after landfall in Mozambique

The storm probably won’t be strong enough when it reaches SA to do major damage, but poorly controlled flooding could be destructive: associate professor.
The aftermath of Cyclone Kenneth is seen in Macomia District, Cabo Delgado province, Mozambique on April 27, 2019. Image: Saviano Abreu, Reuters

Tropical Cyclone Eloise made landfall in Mozambique early Saturday at a key port before weakening, as heavy rains head toward South Africa.

The system was downgraded to a moderate tropical storm with winds of 45 knots (52 miles per hour) after hitting Beira early in the morning, according to the South African Weather Service. Rain is expected later in the day in the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga, where South Africa’s state-owned electric company has taken precautions.

Beira planned to stop operations at midnight, resuming at 7 a.m. on Jan. 24, according to a statement posted on its website. The harbor, a hub for international trade in the region, suffered minimal damage when it was directly hit by the more powerful Cyclone Idai in 2019.

Power plants
Many rivers in Mozambique’s central and southern regions, which are in Eloise’s path, are already above alert levels after Tropical Storm Chalane struck near Beira last month.

The storm earlier this week hit Madagascar, where at least one person was killed and landslides are anticipated. Recent storms and cyclones have brought flooding to Mozambique and downed power lines that export electricity to South Africa from the Cahora Bassa hydropower dam.

Eloise is forecast to lose strength as it moves across land, while still dumping rain in eastern and northern South Africa, where the nation generates most of its power from coal. Heavy rains can make the fuel difficult to burn, constraining operations.

The storm is “definitely a concern for our coal which so easily gets wet,” Jennifer Fitchett, associate professor of physical geography at University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, said.

The storm probably won’t be strong enough when it reaches South Africa to do major damage to infrastructure, but any poorly controlled flooding could be destructive, she said.

State-owned South African utility Eskom has been rationing electricity as it conducts overdue maintenance on its ageing power plants. Its Matimba and Medupi facilities may be the most exposed to flooding, according to Meteo-France’s forecast trajectory of Eloise.

“Eskom has put contingency plans in place and our teams are on standby to do everything possible to mitigate these risks,” the utility said on Twitter. “These power stations have been alerted and have begun making preparations to implement the ‘wet coal’ contingency plans.”

Sasol Ltd., the fuel and chemical maker, has a gas-processing facility on the coast south of Beira and said it was taking the necessary precautions before the storm arrives.

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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