HARARE – Global fuel giant, Total, became the latest to issue a warning against impending energy shortages in Cyclone Idai-ravaged three southern African States, saying its customers in Zimbabwe could be in for deepening supply bottlenecks.

Total said late Thursday that it was working flat out to find alternative routes to ship fuel to Zimbabwe, where it controls over 60 percent of the fuel market, and supplies to bulk customers including mining firms.

It did not rule out impending shortages in the southern African country that is already in the grip of a blazing petroleum crisis ignited by foreign currency shortages that escalated in September last year.

In South Africa, power producer, Eskom was this week forced to implement level 4 load shedding to domestic and industrial consumers.

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This was after the angry cyclone razed pylons connecting Africa’s most industrialised country to the Cabora Bassa power facility in Mozambique.

South Africa taps power from the Mozambican hydroelectric power plant to augment its own supplies after intermittent shortages at shortages recently.

But with South Africa at the vortex of a serious energy crisis, the ripple effects have been dire to Zimbabwe, which imports a significant amount of power from Eskom to beef up its severely under capacitated thermal and hydroelectric power stations.

The Hwange thermal power station, about 600 kilometres north west of Harare and the Kariba hydroelectric power plant about 365 kilometres north of the capital city, have been producing only half of about 2 200 megawatts required to power the country’s industries.

“Following the devastating effect of cyclone Idai experienced in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, the fuel supply chain logistics into Zimbabwe have been adversely affected,” said Chris Kasima, who handles fuel supplies to mines and other big consumers at Total Zimbabwe.

“Based on the information we have received, the following has since been established; the jetty in Beira (Mozambique) has been damaged and can’t receive vessels to discharge, pumping house roofing has been blown away, electrical board was affected, and the status is not yet known. Condition of pipeline from Beira to Zimbabwe is yet to be established and we still await NOIC (National Oil Infrastructure Company) update on the same. Given the above, the stocks in stock in Msasa may not be replenished in due time as required and this is likely to put pressure on the supply chain. We are ceased with finding a quick option and we will keep you posted on the developments and any cost structure implementations as we progress,” he said.

A man digs a grave on March 21, 2019 at the site where other Cyclone Idai victims were buried in Chimanimani, as more bodies are being recovered and immediately buried as some are already decomposing 

Malawi has been facing the same crisis.

The powerful cyclone has destroyed roads, bridges and homes and left more than 1 000 people dead and hundreds of thousands displaced across the affected region.

About 1,5 million people in total have been affected by Cyclone Idai’s torrential rains and winds that have reached speeds of up to 200 kilometres, per hour, according to the United Nations.

The tropical cyclone made landfall Thursday last week near the coastal city of Beira, Mozambique, which lost electricity and communications in the storm.

Joshua Sacco, a member of parliament in Zimbabwe, told local media that officials did not have an accurate count of the missing, indicating that death toll reports could increase.

On Thursday, government said about 217 people had officially been confirmed dead, but other estimates placed the number at well over 500 after floating bodies of Zimbabweans were found floating in rivers across the border into Mozambique.

At least five such victims had been buried in Mozambique, where villagers took photographs of the bodies to help during the identification process.

Some of the storm’s effects could be felt as far inland as Harare, the nation’s capital city, some 400 kilometres from the border.

Zimbabwe’s President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, declared a national of disaster on Thursday after shortening a visit to the United Arab Emirates.

Eskom implemented stage 4 load-shedding last weekend, blaming the “loss of an additional 900MW from Mozambique imports” for the electricity shortage.

Damage caused by tropical cyclone Idai means that both high-voltage, direct current lines from the Cahora-Bassa hydroelectric generation station to the Apollo substation in Gauteng are down.

For close to two decades after the devastation caused by Cyclone Eline, another disastrous storm that rattled landscapes in 2000 destroying infrastructure and leaving scores dead, one wouldn’t imagine that the peace that traverses the Chimanimani landscapes in Zimbabwe could easily be displaced by cyclone rage and anger in a split.

But this unlikely occurrence turned into a reality as Idai made landfall Thursday last week, toppling centuries-old colossal trees, devastating schools, swamping villages and killing unsuspecting villagers.

Vital infrastructure including telecommunications and powerlines, where among the key assets razed, isolating thousands of people from the rest of the country after bridges gave in to marauding waters.

It added salt to injury to already impoverished communities that are trying to make out their future after a disastrous rainfall season.

This was after powerful winds pushed torrential rains and flash floods across the border into Zimbabwe from the Mozambican coast, as storms tore through wildlife estates and cities, ripping through Zimbabwe’s calamity-prone eastern districts, only recently hit by a powerful earthquake.

Again, it left a trail of destruction, which stretched far north into Malawi, a frequent victim of natural disasters in South Africa that has also been struggling to stabilise a volatile economy.

In Mozambique, the death toll was fast approaching 1 000, according to a statement by President Filipe Nyusi on Tuesday.

Cyclone path

Idai left a cluster of devastation, and grief on both sides of the border.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa cut short a tour of the Middle East to be “with my people” on Sunday, hours after it became clear that poorly resourced Zimbabwe would fell short of the capabilities required to face off the scale of the force that the storms exerted.