Maputo — Cyclone Eloise is on a course that will take it straight to the central Mozambican city of Beira, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre (JTWC), operated by the United States navy.
At 06.00 on Friday morning, the cyclone was off the coast of Zambezia, bringing heavy rains to Zambezia coastal districts. It is expected to make landfall near Beira early on Saturday morning. Beira port has taken the precaution of closing, and will not re-open until Sunday morning.
Eloise is currently generating winds of 65 knots (120 kilometres an hour), with gusts of 80 knots. But by Friday evening the wind speed is expected to increase to 75 knots (140 kilometres an hour).
The Mozambican National Meteorology Institute (INAM) warns that all of Sofala province, much of Manica and the northern districts of Inhambane will be hit by rainfall of more than 200 millimetres in 24 hours. INAM describes Eloise as a "category three tropical cyclone".
Even before Eloise strikes, several of the main rivers in central Mozambique are already above flood alert level. Both the Buzi and the Pungoe rivers are two metres above the alert level in Sofala. The Buzi river has surrounded Buzi town, cutting it off from the rest of the country.
The Save river, which forms the conventional boundary between Sofala and Inhambane provinces, is also rising sharply, reaching the alert level on Thursday. Measured at Vila Franca do Save, where the alert level is 5.5 metres, the river reached six metres and was continuing to rise, posing a threat of flooding to the two towns near the mouth of the river, Nova Mambone and Machanga.