Tropical cyclone Idai was downgraded after making landfall on the African east coast last week but the destruction it wrought was significant and South Africa has dispatched military assets to assess and evaluate the situation in Malawi and Mozambique.
A CASA 212 light transport aircraft from AFB Waterkloof-based 44 Squadron along with an Oryx medium transport helicopter from either 17 or 19 Squadron took SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) professionals to Malawi.
A 41 Squadron (AFB Waterkloof) PC-12 was tasked to the humanitarian effort in Mozambique and the single-engined aircraft along with an Agusta A-109 light utility helicopter from either 17 (AFB Zwartkop) or 19 (AFB Hoedspruit) are in South Africa’s eastern neighbour assessing the situation on the ground.
SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Corporate Communications Director Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi said the military assets were supplementing inter-departmental, inter-agency and multinational efforts to minimise flood damage and provide humanitarian assistance. He gave no indication of further deployment of soldiers, military medics and equipment, saying a decision would be made once country damage assessments were received.
Reports late last week have it that at least 115 people were killed in weather related incidents by Friday in Malawi and Mozambique. Severe damage was reported from Beira with a number of aircraft badly damaged by strong winds at the local airport.
In addition to the deaths and displacement of people, Idai was also responsible for infrastructure damage. Included in this category are power transmission lines from Cahora Bassa carrying electricity to South Africa. Eskom stated the loss of power from this source as a contributor to the rolling black-outs the majority of South Africans have been living with since the weekend. The government-owned electricity supplier has indicated black-outs will continue at stage four until at least Wednesday.
President Cyril Ramaphosa is reported as saying the electricity shortfall in South Africa was partially due to storm damage to parts of the transmission line from the Cahora Bassa hydro-electric generation station. He reportedly also said the SANDF was on standby to provide airborne support to Eskom. This would allow technicians to conduct aerial surveillance of damaged power lines in Mozambique as well as transport equipment needed to repair damaged infrastructure on an emergency basis.