Tropical storm Eloise threatens to disrupt South Africa's power supply over the weekend

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  • Tropical Storm Eloise is expected to become a cyclone before making landfall later on Friday or early Saturday near the port of Beira in Mozambique
  • Eloise is forecast to lose strength as it moves across land, while still dumping rain in eastern and northern South Africa, where the nation generates most of its power from coal
  • Eskom’s Matimba and Medupi facilities may be the most exposed to flooding, according to MeteoFrance’s forecast trajectory of Eloise


Mozambique is bracing for the arrival of a cyclone that threatens to disrupt one of its key ports and flood power plants in South Africa.

Tropical Storm Eloise is expected to become a cyclone before making landfall later Friday or early Saturday near the port of Beira. The weather system is expected to bring more than 200 millimeters (8 inches) of rain in 24 hours to the area, with winds of up to 150 kilometers (93 miles) an hour, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

Beira will temporarily stop operations at midnight, resuming at 07:00 on January 24, according to a statement posted on its website. The harbor, a hub for international trade in the region, suffered minimal damage when it was directly hit by the more powerful Cyclone Idai in 2019.

Power Plants

Many rivers in Mozambique’s central and southern regions, which Eloise will impact, are already above alert levels after Tropical Storm Chalane struck near Beira last month.

The storm earlier this week hit Madagascar, where at least one person was killed and landslides are anticipated. Recent storms and cyclones have brought flooding to Mozambique and downed lines that export electricity to South Africa from the Cahora Bassa hydropower dam.

Eloise is forecast to lose strength as it moves across land, while still dumping rain in eastern and northern South Africa, where the nation generates most of its power from coal. Heavy rains can make the fuel difficult to use and constrain operations.

Eloise is "definitely a concern for our coal which so easily gets wet," Jennifer Fitchett, associate professor of physical geography at University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, said in response to emailed questions.

The storm probably won’t be strong enough at the point when it reaches South Africa to do major damage to infrastructure, but any poorly controlled flooding could be destructive, she said.

Eskom has been rationing electricity as it conducts overdue maintenance on its aging power plants.

Eskom’s Matimba and Medupi facilities may be the most exposed to flooding, according to MeteoFrance’s forecast trajectory of Eloise.

Eskom didn’t immediately respond to emails seeking comment.

Sasol, the fuel and chemical maker, has a gas-processing facility on the coast south of Beira and said that it’s taking the necessary precautions before the storm arrives.

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