Cyclone Chalane may hit Manicaland Province, especially Chimanimani District, next Thursday with President Mnangagwa putting the country on alert and the Department of Civil Protection (DCP) meeting yesterday to ensure all measures were in place should the cyclone strike.
Few Indian Ocean cyclones get as far as Zimbabwe, but Chalane is on a course for Beira, so Zimbabwean officials are getting ready.
If the cyclone hits Chimanimani, this will be the second time the area would have been affected by a cyclone in 21 months, after Cyclone Idai left a trail of death, destruction and displacement of people in March last year.
AccuWeather senior meteorologist Mr Jason Nicholls tweeted yesterday that the tropical cyclone may strike north-east Madagascar on Saturday or Sunday and then could move towards Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
In his address in Chivi yesterday while commissioning the Chombwe Piped Water Scheme, the President warned that the cyclone could move into Zimbabwe and asked chiefs and other traditional leaders to warn communities.
DCP director Mr Nathan Nkomo told The Herald yesterday that there had been an Emergency Services sub-committee meeting to plan for any cyclone.
“We are prepared, remember before we develop a contingency plan, it requires funding and this funding was approved by Cabinet in November,” said Mr Nkomo.
“But as for tropical Cyclone Chalane, we met today as the Emergency Services Sub-Committee of the National Civil Protection Committee.
“The Meteorological Services Department has indicated that it is monitoring developments in the eastern parts of Mozambique hourly.
And from 31 December to the 1 January, they will continue to monitor whether the cyclone will affect Zimbabwe or not.”
Mr Nkomo said the social media had helped spread the message about the potential cyclone in the provinces, although their structures are on the ground to raise awareness, “without causing pandemonium”.
Representatives from ministries such Public, Service and Social Welfare and Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage were part of yesterday’s meeting, as they play roles such as food and shelter provision, and rescuing marooned people.
Zimbabwe National Water Authority officials also attended as Zinwa will be responsible for monitoring river levels.
Mr Nkomo said they agreed to come up with “a priority plan”, adding that there was need for the identification of institutions that would be used to house any people displaced by the cyclone or needing emergency shelter.
“The institutions should be within reach and technically they should be boarding schools given their infrastructure,” he said.
Traditional leaders have been engaged to raise awareness in their areas, prepare people for evacuation should the need arise while those taking medication, for instance, should have their tablets at hand.
In terms of transport, the DCP will discuss the logistics with Zupco in mind to ensure the movement of people “is done with dignity”, but should the situation deteriorate, any mode of transport that can be obtained will be used.
In a telephone interview, Chimanimani East legislator, Cde Joshua Sacco said awareness campaigns had started while the Chimanimani District Civil Protection Unit had an emergency meeting yesterday to chart the way forward.
He is raising awareness about the potential cyclone on his Facebook page, but said he spoke with the Met Department. They were unaware at this stage of the path the cyclone will take until it gets to Beira, Mozambique around December 29 or 30.
Added Cde Sacco: “Anyway, we have started awareness campaigns and this afternoon (yesterday) the Chimanimani District Civil Protection Unit met to discuss modalities on preparedness and I think central Government may also come in to assist.
“But it is only after the cyclone hits Mozambique that we will start considering evacuations; at this stage we have not started evacuations because the cyclone may change path and go south or north.”