Coast on high alert as cyclone Hidaya weakens after landfall

Red Cross staff on the lookout at Jomo Kenyatta (Pirates) Beach in Mombasa, May 5, 2024. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

Coast leaders and marine experts remain on high alert over the potential effects of cyclone Hidaya.

This is even after the Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) said the cyclone lost its strength after making landfall on Mafia Island in Tanzania on Saturday.

Mombasa and Kwale governors put their teams on high alert, while police ensured the usually crowded beaches were empty over fears of the cyclone.

Police patrolled the Jomo Kenyatta (Pirates) and Nyali beaches in Mombasa yesterday, which remained deserted as governors advised residents to keep off for their safety.

Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) also issued an advisory to mariners in Kilifi, Mombasa, Kwale, Tana River and Lamu counties.

Kenya Marine Fisheries Research Institute Oceanographer and Principal Research Scientist Dr Charles Magori said in a statement, that cyclone Hidaya develops due to low-pressure systems associated with strong winds and heavy rainfall.

"A former tropical depression over the South Indian Ocean, North- North East of Comoros strengthened on Friday, and Meteo France La Re Union designated the system as a Tropical Cyclone Hidaya," he said.

"We advise further, Coastal residents to exercise utmost caution in light of the heightened intensity of Cyclone Hidaya and continued monitoring weather forecasts and heeding to precautionary information given," Dr Magori warned.

Cyclone Hidaya, which had been projected to make landfall in Tanzania and Kenya during the weekend, left a trail of destruction in Mafia Island, which is located about 130 kilometres southeast of Dar es Salaam.

In a statement Sunday afternoon, KMD boss David Gikungu said the Kenyan Coast will not feel the impact of the cyclone as earlier anticipated.

Instead, he asked residents to brace for moderate to heavy rainfall accompanied by heavy winds.

“Following its landfall at Mafia Island on Saturday 4, May 2024, Tropical Cyclone "Hidaya" completely lost its strength. The remnants of the rain clouds that accompanied the cyclone have been observed  to weaken and spread out in various areas of the southern region of Tanzania, as confirmed by the Tanzania Meteorological Authority,” Dr Gikungu said.

“However, the Coastal region (Kwale, Mombasa, Kilifi, Lamu counties) is likely to experience moderate to heavy rainfall offshore, which might propagate inland on Monday and Tuesday accompanied by strong winds (>40 knots) and large waves (>2m),” he added.

Mombasa Governor Abdulswamad Nassir has banned activities along the beaches including fishing.

Nassir also stopped all ongoing high-rise construction in Mombasa to avert any fatalities due to strong winds expected to hit Mombasa.

“No construction will be allowed. We don’t want people falling off rooftops,” he said.

The governor met stakeholders from the national and private sectors for emergency preparedness.

“No one will be allowed to go to the beach until we access the situation. The Inspectorate will ensure that all those who operate in the area are evacuated. All public beaches will be manned and all hotel owners will take responsibility if they defy our directives,” said Nassir.

Kwale County Disaster Management Committee chaired by Governor Fatuma Achani issued an alert over the cyclone Hidaya and asked residents to stay away from the ocean.

The committee also told fishermen and other beach operators to stay away from the beaches for the next seven days to avert potential effects of cyclone Hidaya.

In a statement yesterday, the committee asked the residents not to ignore the warning given by the weatherman, to avert loss of lives due to floods in the anticipated heavy rains and storm.

Kenya Maritime Authority Director General Martin Munga asked boat and vessel owners to secure their vessels in harbour or landing sites with continuous monitoring to ensure mooring effectiveness.