It is a week now since news of Tropical Cyclone FREDDY first started to be seen and heard. Travelling due west in the Indian Ocean, it was forecast to hit Madagascar more or less mid-ships on Tuesday late.

Original wind speeds were measured at 250km/h, but, by the time, it reached The Malagasy coast, the speeds had dropped a bit to 165km/h. By last Monday over three million people on Madagascar were being threatened by its forecast path.

Forecasters started to predict that FREDDY would travel due west across Madagascar, weakening while over land, and then strengthen again in the Mozambique Channel, before hitting the coast of Mozambique on Friday with wind speeds in the region of 125 km/h. By Wednesday evening, Madagascar was reporting 4 fatalities, and 16000 affected people across 4 regions. Thousands of houses have been flooded, damaged or destroyed.

FREDDY was confirmed to be strengthening, and to make landfall close to the Inhassoro Town (in northern Inhambane Province, southern Mozambique) on 24 February very early in the morning (UTC), as a Tropical Storm. Between Friday and Saturday, heavy rainfall, strong wind and storm surge were forecast over central and southern Madagascar and over central and southern Mozambique.

The Western Cape Government said teams from its disaster management centre would be on standby as tropical cyclone FREDDY is expected to affect parts of South Africa. The storm is expected to bring heavy rainfall which could lead to flooding in the north-eastern parts of South Africa this weekend.

Areas expected to be affected by the periphery of the storm are parts of Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal.

“Mozambique, Zimbabwe and parts of South Africa are bracing for Tropical Cyclone FREDDY. It is expected to make landfall in the vicinity of Beira on the Mozambique coastline this weekend,” said Anton Bredell, the Western Cape MEC for local government, environmental affairs and development planning.

“Current predictions are for extreme downpours and damaging winds in Mozambique and eastern Zimbabwe.

“In South Africa, the Lowveld and escarpment areas of Limpopo and Mpumalanga could potentially be at risk, especially considering the recent heavy rains and flooding these regions have already been subjected to.

“As a precautionary response measure, The Western Cape Disaster Management Centre has been requested by the National Disaster Management Centre to lead a combined South African team to support rescue efforts in severely affected areas.”

The head of the Western Cape Disaster Management Centre, Colin Deiner will lead the combined effort to ensure various rescue teams are co-ordinated and on standby for deployment.

“A team of 40 rescue workers is currently ready to deploy at short notice. The team is represented by the Western Cape and Gauteng Disaster Management Centres, Gift of the Givers Rescue Team, Rescue South Africa, Sarza Rough Terrain Specialists and the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI),” Deiner said.

“The team will be supported by approximately 20 off-road rescue vehicles and several rescue boats.

“They will also be equipped with water and rope rescue equipment, heavy lifting and cutting equipment, mobile command posts and technical search equipment.

“The team will be self-sufficient and will be equipped to deal with water rescue operations as well as search and rescue of missing persons.” End quote.

Then on Monday we got the news of two further major earthquakes on the Turkiye-Syrian border. Within seconds of each other, they both measured about 6.4 on the Richter scale. These shocks seem to be right on the coast of the two countries, and news of further casualties is that a further 6 people have died, and another 294 people are injured. However, they add to the over 3000 aftershocks experienced in the area, and must surely make the population afraid to be inside a building of any kind.

Reports from the United Nations say that 41000 deaths have been recorded and 1.5 million people are now homeless in the south of Turkiye, where at least 500000 new homes will need to be built for them.

And in Syria, where at least 6000 people have lost their lives, and up to 9 million citizens have been affected, residents who survived the earthquake are left in extremely cold temperatures without drinking water, electricity, or fuel for heating, and are exposed to the danger of crumbling buildingsas they try to seek shelter.  

Greg G0DUB reports that Aziz TA1E, who is the Turkish IARU Emcomms coordinator, was interviewed by the BBC World Service for their programme ‘Digital Planet’ which was broadcast on 21st February. The item is available for you to listen to at https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3ct31zr. The item runs from about 2 minutes into the recording and lasts about 6 minutes.

Aziz has given a great summary of how we can help in emergencies and it certainly helped that the interviewer is also a Radio Amateur.

TRAC, the Turkish Amateur Radio Association says that a total of 130 members of their 32 branches and representative offices were active in the disaster area to provide communication support to the rescue teams and public institutions in the provinces and districts that were exposed to damage. Their locally operating repeaters were used, and the coverage areas were expanded by installing mobile repeaters in 3 different settlements where needed. 

The South African rescue team, led by the Gift of the Givers, and involving 4×4 rescue individuals, also had tracker dogs trained to search for both living and dead victims. No other search dogs are capable of tracking both types of casualties. Our team returned to South Africa after 10 days.

Livescience.com reports on the unexpected X-class solar flare that occurred on 17th February, produced by sunspot AR3229, which was newly formed. Solar Astronomers had predicted some action from AR3226, and were caught off guard by this one, which had an X-class magnitude of 2.2.

The flare triggered a rare type of shockwave known as a solar tsunami that rippled across the sun’s visible surface, or photosphere, according to Spaceweather.com. A solar tsunami, also known by scientists as a fast-mode magnetohydrodynamical wave, is basically “a giant wave of hot plasma” that can travel up to 901,000 km/h across the photosphere and reach heights of around 100,000 km above the surface, according to NASA.

The flare also emitted a Type II solar radio burst — a stream of mainly ultraviolet and X-ray radiation — that hit Earth shortly after the flare erupted. The radiation ionized the upper atmosphere, causing minor radio blackouts across parts of the Americas for around an hour, according to Spaceweather.com. 

The slight increase in X-class flares is likely the result of the sun entering a more lively phase of its 11-year solar cycle, which should peak in 2025. Let’s hope it continues to increase in intensity over these next 3 years.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.