India was among the first international responders to arrive at the Mozambican port of Beira after it faced the full brunt of Cyclone Idai on March 15. Three Indian naval ships, INS Sujatha, INS Shardul and INS Sarathi, arrived with food, clothes, medicine and potable water five days after the storm hit the Mozambican coast. Mozambique’s defence minister visited the ships as the aid was transferred to the local defence forces.
According to the Red Cross, the cyclone affected 90 per cent of Beira, the second largest city of Mozambique. President Filipe Nyusi warned the death toll would probably pass over 1,000 and nearly 150 confirmed dead were reported in Zimbabwe. The category 4 storm left nearly 3000 sq km of land under water in what was described as an “inland ocean” with thousands of people left stranded in trees or the roofs of building. Nearly 1.5 million people have been displaced throughout central and southern Mozambique. The storm is expected to act as a further dampener on the country’s economy, already reeling from the debt fallout of a billion-dollar financial scandal.
Mozambique and Mauritius are regularly affected by cyclones crossing the southwestern Indian Ocean. Cyclone Jokwe in 2008 killed about 20 people in Mozambique, the last major storm to hit the country. While major cyclones come roughly every five years, experts say climate change will make such storms more powerful and lethal in the coming decades. Cyclone Idai is set to be the worst such storm in the country’s history.
India has particularly close relations with Mozambique, going back to the days when it was a “frontline state” in the fight against apartheid South Africa. India presently provides training to all the arms of the Mozambican military and Indian firms have large stakes in the country’s offshore gasfields. Almost a quarter of India’s total investment in Africa goes to Mozambique.
March 28, 2019