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Cyclone Idai batters Mozambique coastal city

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – A powerful tropical storm made landfall in Mozambique on Thursday evening, battering a coastal town with heavy rain and wind at speeds of up to up 170 km an hour.

In Beira, a gateway for imports to landlocked countries in south-east Africa, twitter images showed billboards blown off and electricity and telephone poles knocked down.

There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries from the cyclone Idai, which dumped more water and brought destruction on areas where scores have already been killed and tens of thousands displaced by floods over the past week.

The Mozambican government’s emergency services has yet to give an update on the situation. The storm was also expected to hit parts of neighbouring Malawi.

“Cyclone Idai made landfall at about midnight and is now lying north west off Beira,” said Jan Vermeulen, senior forecaster at South African Weather service.

“We don’t have any communications from the area. This is an intense tropical cyclone and I think there’s a lot of damage to infrastructure which is probably responsible for the loss in communications.”

The storm threatens a familiar natural disaster in Mozambique, which has already seen deadly floods worsened by devastating hurricanes in both 2000 and 2007.

Cyclone Eline, which hit the country in February 2000 when it was already devastated by its worst floods in three decades, left 350 dead and 650,000 homeless across southern Africa. Whole cities were left without access to clean water, sanitation or electricity.

Mozambique has significant offshore liquefied natural gas projects underway in the north, but these were currently out of harm’s way.

(Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng and Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

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