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Cyclone Nears Mozambican Coastline

February 21, 2000

MAPUTO, Mozambique (AP) _ Cyclone Eline edged its way towards the Mozambican coast Monday, driving heavy rains ahead of it to an area already devastated by the worst floods in 30 years.

Satellite pictures taken Monday afternoon showed the cyclone about 30 miles off the coast of the central Inhambane province, said Mussa Musdafa, chief weather forecaster at the National Meteorology Institute.

The center of the storm was moving northwest at about 6 miles an hour. It was expected to hit the Mozambican coast early Tuesday morning, he said.

The cyclone had been downgraded to a tropical storm but was upgraded Monday afternoon after its pressure sank and its winds strengthened to over 62 miles an hour.

Though the cyclone is still at sea, it has brought heavy rains and gale winds to the area between Beira and Vilanculos, nearly 480 miles to the south, Stephan Steyn, a forecaster with the South African Weather bureau in Pretoria said.

Maputo, Mozambique’s capital, was fanned by strong winds on Monday.

Torrential rains hit the impoverished former Portuguese colony two weeks ago, causing widespread flooding that washed away roads, houses, bridges and agricultural land.

In New York, Fred Eckhard, spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, said Annan ``is deeply distressed by the destruction caused by the worst floods in 50 years in Mozambique. ... He extends his condolences to the affected families and to the surviving victims.″

Eckhard said preparations are under way to launch a United Nations interagency appeal to address the needs of those in urgent need of assistance

``The secretary-general hopes that donors will respond to this appeal promptly and generously,″ he said.

About 300,000 people were affected by the floods and needed food and water, said Dr. Gilbert Greenall, a spokesman for U.N. agencies involved in relief efforts.

Neighboring South Africa has provided five helicopters and two aircraft to help relief efforts.

Maj. Louis Kirsten, a spokesman for the South African Air Force, said 230 tons of food and medical supplies had already been dropped off, and close to 3,000 people had been rescued from the flood waters.

About 211,000 people have been displaced, and 67 have died in the floods, Udoyen said. Earlier reports said 400,000 people were displaced and 150 killed.

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