Mozambique and Comoros brace for cyclone Kenneth

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Map showing the path of tropical storm Kenneth which threatens Mozambique just weeks after it was ravaged by cyclone Idai

Violent winds caused landslides and flooding and cut off roads in Comoros in the vanguard of tropical storm Kenneth, set to hit Wednesday evening before heading to recently cyclone-ravaged Mozambique, officials said.

As the storm neared, schools were closed and inter-island hopper flight suspended.

Chief of the Comoros Centre for Relief and Civil Protection Centre (COSEP) Mouigni Daho said the arrival of the cyclone on the island was preceded by strong winds and floods.

There have been no reports of injuries.

Comoros Interior Minister Mohamed "Kiki" Daoudou urged citizens Wednesday to "stay calm and follow the instructions."

After Comoros, Kenneth is expected to reach the far north of Mozambique late Thursday or early Friday, if it stays on its current course.

This comes a month after cyclone Idai ravaged the country and neighbouring Zimbabwe, claiming some 1,000 lives and causing about $2 billion in damage, according to the World Bank.

The Mozambique National Meteorology Institute (INAM) warned in a statement that the storm system was intensifying.

"The severe tropical storm has intensified in the past few hours into a Category Three tropical cyclone, and forecasts project that the cyclone could intensify to a Category Four on April 25," it said.

Heavy rains and winds of up to 140 kilometres per hour (87 miles per hour) would follow, it added.

Mozambique's National Institute of Disaster Management (INGC) cautioned Wednesday that 692,000 people could be affected.

The INGC said it would relocate rescue equipment, including boats and helicopters previously reserved in Sofala province for victims of Idai, to Cabo Delgado where Kenneth is expected.

"We have water, we have a generator, we are prepared. We've done everything we were told to," said a hotel owner in the small town of Mucojo which is projected to be close to the eye of the cyclone.

- 'Concerned' -

"We've learned with Idai that it's a good strategy to allocate the rescue means before the cyclone..." Augusto Maita, general director of INGC told AFP.

The province of Cabo Delgado, bordering Tanzania, is also dealing since 2017 with a wave of deadly violence attributed to a jihadist group that advocates the application of Islamic law.

Volunteers of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, who had assisted in cyclone Idai rescue efforts, said teams were already "on alert".

"We are concerned about the impact that this storm could have across the three countries," regional director for Africa for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFC), Dr Fatoumata Nafo-Traore said.

"We are especially concerned about its possible impact in Mozambique where communities are still recovering from the devastation of Cyclone Idai," she said.

In Mozambique alone, Idai killed more than 600 people and affected 1.85 million, while over 340 died in Zimbabwe.

"Typically cyclones occur in the rainy season which is already over. This cyclone at the end of April is unusual," Comoros environment ministry expert Youssouf Hamadi told AFP.

"It confirms the increasing intensity and frequency of cyclones in the Indian Ocean" -- a phenomenon some blame on global warming.