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At Least 150 Dead, 1.5 Million Impacted as Cyclone Idai Slams Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe
At least 150 people have died in a cyclone that devastated parts of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi over the weekend, The Associated Press reported Sunday. Cyclone Idai has affected more than 1.5 million people since it hit Mozambique's port city of Beira late Thursday, then traveled west to Zimbabwe and Malawi. Hundreds are still missing and tens of thousands are without access to roads or telephones.
"I think this is the biggest natural disaster Mozambique has ever faced. Everything is destroyed. Our priority now is to save human lives," Mozambique's Environment Minister Celso Correia said, as AFP reported.
The storm, which had wind speeds of more than 124 miles per hour before making landfall, was the worst to hit Mozambique in at least a decade, Bloomberg News reported. While the storm was less intense than cyclones that hit the country in 2000 and 2008, it may have more of an impact because more people now live in affected areas.
"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," University of the Witwatersrand senior lecturer in physical geography Jennifer Fitchett told Bloomberg via email. "A decade or more makes a huge difference in terms of the number of people affected."
Mozambique is at risk from an increase in heavy rainfall and more intense cyclones due to climate change, according to its USAID Climate Risk Profile. However, a 2018 study published in Environmental Research Letters found that the number of tropical cyclones forming over the Southwest Indian Ocean to make landfall in Southern Africa could actually decrease with global warming of up to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Mozambique is also threatened by sea level rise, which can make flooding worse. Beira is already working to mitigate rising ocean levels with infrastructure projects, BBC News reported.
Beira was especially hard hit by the weekend's storm, according to an initial assessment by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
"The situation is terrible. The scale of devastation is enormous. It seems that 90 per cent of the area is completely destroyed." Beira IFRC assessment team leader Jamie LeSueur said.
The city's airport is closed and flooding has cut off all roads to the city, but LeSueur said that damage in surrounding areas could be even worse.
In Zimbabwe, the worst damage occurred in its Chimanimani district, where flooding washed away homes and bridges, AFP reported.
Among those killed in the region were two school children who died when a boulder carried by a landslide collided with their dormitory. Soldiers were able to rescue the rest of the nearly 200 students, teachers and staff trapped in the school Sunday.
Officials are also worried about the fate of government workers who lived in a complex that was entirely flooded.
"We are very worried because all these houses were just suddenly submerged under water and literally washed away and that is where we have about 147 missing," Chimanimani lawmaker Joshua Sacco said, according to AFP. "It's very sad and the situation is dire."
In Malawi, previous flooding has already displaced thousands. Communities are now threatened a second time with flooding caused by Idai, the IFRC tweeted Friday.
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By Tracy L. Barnett
Sources reviewed this article for accuracy.
For Sicangu Lakota water protector Cheryl Angel, Standing Rock helped her define what she stands against: an economy rooted in extraction of resources and exploitation of people and planet. It wasn't until she'd had some distance that the vision of what she stands for came into focus.
Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.