Power blackouts hit Tanzania as Cyclone Hidaya intensifies

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NAIROBI, Kenya -- Cyclone Hidaya significantly weakened as it approached Tanzania's coastline, the country's meteorology department said Saturday.

Officials warned residents to remain cautious, however, as the cyclone brings heavy rain and strong winds to the country through Sunday. The meteorology department did not say what the cyclone's updated maximum wind speeds were.

A major blackout hit most of Tanzania Saturday as heavy rains and strong winds from Hidaya lashed the country following weeks of flooding in the region.

Ferry services between Tanzania’s commercial hub, Dar es Salaam, and Zanzibar were suspended as Hidaya earlier approached the East African coast with maximum winds of 120 kph (33 mph) and powerful gusts.

Reports of trees falling due to strong winds experienced in Mafia island were shared by local media by Saturday afternoon.

Authorities had warned residents to exercise caution as the intensity of the cyclone increases.

The weather service said more than usual amounts of rainfall were recorded in coastal areas overnight. The Tanzania Red Cross Society has been carrying out preparedness campaigns along the coast.

Heavy rains and flooding in recent weeks in Tanzania and the rest of East Africa have left some 155 people dead, authorities said. More than 200,000 others have been affected.

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