DISASTER ALERT : Tropical Storm Irina Engulfs City of Maputo

Tropical Cyclone Irina is now expected to make landfall just South of the City of Maputo on Sunday, 4th March 2012, at noon. Earlier projections, that the storm would land in Inhambane or Gaza provinces north of Maputo, have proven incorrect.

Over two million people live in Maputo and adjoining Matola. It is estimated that 80% of the city's population (around 1.6 Million) lives in slums without running water and electricity. Most of these slums are located in low lying areas barely metres above sea level. The majority of the slum dwellings are built of reeds, bamboo cane and palm fronds with the more affluent making extensive use of corrugated iron sheets loosely fixed to a timber frame.

The storm picked up speed during the course of Friday and is now heading towards the city at around 31km/hour. Current JTWC forecasts predict wind speeds of up to 120 km/hour.

Heavy rains will pound the city from late Saturday and the city's CBD (Baixa) and slums are expected to be largely flooded by Monday morning. In the course of the next few days hundreds of thousands of slum dwellers will see their homes demolished by the storm and will be rendered homeless and destitute. The water and electricity distribution systems are expected to be out of action for some weeks following the landfall as much of the infrastructure is located in poorly drained areas and regularly flood. Many roads will be rendered useless by fallen trees and eroded pavements. Food supply and other social services will be disrupted.

The Mozambican government does not have the capacity, the resources or the systems to deal with the humanitarian crisis that will follow. South Africa will be expected to provide most of the post storm assistance that will be required.

Irina is predicted to develop into a tropical depression over the Kingdom of Swaziland. Northern KZN and Mpumalanga will be affected by extreme weather early next week.

Follow the storm on http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hurricanes/archives/2012/h2012_Irina.html

MAPUTO SANITATION STATUS: Click here for complete information.