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Worst Hurricane in a Decade Kills Dozens in Southern Africa

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(Bloomberg) -- At least 43 people died in central Mozambique and Zimbabwe after a tropical cyclone tore through the southern African nations, knocking out electricity and phone networks and cutting power to South Africa from a hydropower dam.

The storm, the worst to hit Mozambique in at least a decade, had windspeeds of more than 200 kilometers per hour (124 miles) before it made landfall early Friday. It’s exacerbating flooding in the region that had already killed more than 60 people. While the storm has dissipated since crossing over land, there is still heavy rains over Mozambique and eastern Zimbabwe.

At least 19 people died in Mozambique, according to the government, while a further 24 perished in Zimbabwe, state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corp. reported. The storm damaged a Mozambican transmission line to South Africa, cutting supplies by 900 megawatts and worsening an electricity shortage in the continent’s most industrialized economy.

“There has been a lot of damage that we have not yet made the calculation of how much we need to rebuild,” said Alberto Mondlane, governor of Mozambique’s worst-hit Sofala province, in comments broadcast over state radio late Friday. “Many homes have been left without a roof.”

The storm has already affected 1.5 million people, according to the United Nations.

While Idai was not as intense as comparable storms that ravaged the region in 2008 and 2000, a rapid rise in the amount of people living in the area means that “damages may be worse,” said Jennifer Fitchett, a senior lecturer in physical geography at University of the Witwatersrand. Mozambique’s population has increased by more than two-thirds to 31 million since 2000.

“Tropical cyclone damage is a function not only of the intensity of the storm, but also the population size, level of development, and adaptation that has been implemented,” she said in reply to emailed questions. “A decade or more makes a huge difference in terms of the number of people affected.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Matthew Hill in Maputo at mhill58@bloomberg.net;Borges Nhamire in Maputo at bnhamire@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net, Shaji Mathew

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