After the devastation of Cyclone Idai our man on the ground Godfrey Bhodyera wrote this letter to us:
Firstly, I would like to thank all of you for standing with us continually as we are trying to cope with the aftermath of Cyclone Idai. When you hear these things happening to other countries, you will never fully understand the effects of climate change until the disaster knocks on your doorstep. Climate change is real and probably here to stay. What we witnessed on Cyclone Idai is something that we pray never to happen again to us or any other country.
The Department of Disaster Management together with the Metrological Services did not prepare us enough for Cyclone Idai which was a Category 4- Hurricane. Most of you would like to know if we really knew that Cyclone Idai was coming. Indeed we knew that Cyclone Idai was coming but the information relayed was not sufficient enough to prepare ourselves for such a Disaster. Mozambique is always hit by cyclones and to us it is something normal every year during the rain season. Before Idai came we had been hit by Cyclone Desmond which flooded the City of Beira and surrounding areas. Everyone else knew that cyclones do happen almost every year in Mozambique and we are used to them and when they hit, Beira is usually filled with water and all business activities stop. Cyclone Idai was however, a different thing all together.
The National Institute for Disaster Management, the Met Services and other government departments had warned us in advance but however, they did not use layman’s language for everyone to understand. We were told that the Cyclone was going to come with winds of more than 220km/hr, rains and the ocean will be having waves about 10 meters high. All these warnings are gibberish in an ordinary man’s ear. We didn’t know or understand the extent of damage than can be caused by winds of 220km/hr. This meant that in many people’s ears, those warning alerts were not as frightening as they were supposed to be. We didn’t know that these winds were going to turn our city into a ghost-town within a wink of eye.
On the 14th of March, Cyclone Idai arrived around 4pm. The winds were there and we saw them but they were not as frightening as they later turned to be. The winds were accompanied by light rains during that time. However, things turned ugly around 7pm in the evening. That is when the real terrifying winds arrived. I had never seen wind with such intensity and for 8 solid hours we were being beaten mercilessly by those winds. Sounds of big trees falling, roofs flying, walls falling, and strong rains falling turned everything into a horror movie and it wasn’t long before the whole city became dark. We were still having the communication lines open and we were communicating with people for different places to hear what Idai was doing there. Subsequently, the communication lines were then cut off as well. This then turned really ugly.
The following morning as I went out, I saw a different city altogether. Houses reduced to rubble, churches turned into piles of bricks with the roofs nowhere to be found. This was the reality that we were to face. Businesses completely destroyed and looted. The storm was over but leaving not just a trail of destruction but a complete destruction of Sofala Province and part of Manica Province. This was marking a new era for our city Beira which had been involved in robust economic and spiritual growth as we endeavoured to rebuild the nation that was ravaged by the civil war. It was like taking the city 30 years back to the time of a war-torn Beira that was completely ravaged.
On the 16th of March we tried to go by road to Chimoio to leave the city as we no longer had communication, electricity or water and all the flights had been cancelled as the airport had been extensively damaged. We couldn’t transact because all businesses had been closed except a few tuck-shops. The basic commodities were already becoming scarce and those who had them in stock in tuck-shops were doubling the prices or even tripling. The situation was now very tense and risky. We drove some 90km from Beira and the road seemed fine because Beira had not received excessive rainfall. As we got to Joni Segredo area, we found the shock of our lives.
Cyclone Idai, had brought so much rains to Zimbabwe and Moz was receiving 18000l/sec of water flowing into our Country through rivers Pungue and Save as well as many other tributaries that come from Zimbabwe and Western Mozambique. These volumes of water were not expected in Moz and they caught the authorities unaware and unprepared. They had not emptied the dams for the new rain season because the Met services were projecting a season with low rainfall. This meant that they didn’t have space in the dams to contain the waters from Zimbabwe and they decided to open the floodgates of dams without having enough time to evacuate the people because the dam walls were now at the verge of collapsing. At Joni Segredo, the road had been cut completely.
The water was up to the roof level of homes and many people were said to have drowned. Some were perched on trees like birds shouting, “socorro, Socorro” which means, “help, help.” The scene was so terrifying like a scene from a horror movie and I am still hearing those voices in my ears up to this day. There was a man who was collecting people from trees with his canoe and there weren’t rescue efforts yet from the government or other civic society groups. We made a U-turn to return to Beira to face all the challenges in the city.
The damage done to the city was so traumatizing that I started to suffer from a strange headache.
As the road had been damaged it meant that all supplies to or from the city had all been cancelled as well. This meant that basic commodities like bottled water were now a scarce commodity in the city and the taps were dry. The port also had been damaged and ships were not docking and fuel was becoming a challenge as well and fuel stations were now characterized by long winding queues. For one to get bottled water you would go around the whole city asking in each and every tuck-shop that was open. But it was nowhere to be found.
As I am writing, I am now safely in Chimoio some 200km out of Beira. They have managed to make a temporary road for vehicles to pass although it is just one lane stretching 15km. This means that they give the vehicles a change and this can take up to one and half hours in waiting.
The damage caused by Cyclone Idai is unquantifiable. It is really painful even to think about so many lives lost and the families that have had their livelihoods completely destroyed. Some have been successfully rescued and are gathered in various transit camps where food is scarce and their safety as well not guaranteed. Children are at great risk and cholera cases have been reported in Beira. The NGOs are the ones who are actually doing better than what the government is doing. The food distributions by the government are so chaotic and violent and many people can’t get anything from that.
The Beach House was not spared. The windows of the office were blown away and water filled the office destroying many items. The roof at the Beach House was completely destroyed and as well the durawalls.
Continue to support us to have the healing and restoration that we need as a nation. The country is really broken and in GREAT pain and anguish.
Once again I would like to convey my sincere gratitude to LNI for the overwhelming psychosocial support I have been receiving. This has indeed helped to cope with the aftermath of this disaster as we are still navigating our way out of this labyrinth.