It’s been eight weeks since Idai the tropical cyclone hit Beira, our home in Mozambique. Cyclone Idai is on record as the largest to hit Africa and the Southern Hemisphere. The highest winds were up to 195 / 200km/h and gusts averaged 280km/h.
I’d like to share our story and experiences with you.
During the week leading up to Idai, there was constant chat amongst the expats about whether you were staying or evacuating! Life was still going on as normal,except those of us who were staying, started to prepare for the aftermath as best we could. None of us had gone through such devastation before so the forward planning included wholesale purchasing of whatever was left on the supermarket shelves. Bear in mind, there is one Shoprite Checkers and one Spar in the city! We all bought bulk groceries (tins mainly) and loads of bottled water.
It was very upsetting to soon learn, that the locals had had no official communication regarding the oncoming cyclone and everything in the city seemed very normal . For instance, if they had known, the Lighthouse Restaurant which is next door to the famous Beira light house, would have pushed the beach sand in front of their buildings to make sand banks to provide protection. The proprietors had done this in the past. Unfortunately, the communication was lacking and restaurants like this one, and the local people were the ones seriously affected by the strong winds and flooding.
I remember during the afternoon of Idai,we did see and hear police with loud speakers driving through the streets, telling people there was a cyclone coming. This obviously gave the locals no time at all to prepare but then again how do you prepare for a cyclone. if you have very little money and very few resources to work with. Mozambique is recognised as one of the ten poorest nations in the world.
Cyclone Idai came with great force at 9h00 pm! But during the afternoon the sky went grey; the wind speeds picked up; and the rain started to fall in a deluge. One very odd observation that afternoon,was that all my plants on the balcony had gone limp, just like ragdolls! I learnt that this was because of the drastic change in air pressure. We were warned that the cyclone would be devastatingly strong from 9 pm until 2 am, but that the wind would change direction when the eye was over the city. We buckled down and we knew we were in for one heck of a night. As predicted at 2 am, everything went quiet, and then we felt something I can only describe as a strong suction and release. This was incredibly eerie.
The aftermath on Friday morning was doom and gloom. I had only watched anything like this on TV, never did we think that we would see such devastation all around us. Friday was a challenging day. After very little sleep, we started to clean up the apartment and tried to come to terms with the night we had just experienced. We had been lucky! Flooding but no structural damage to our apartment.
From another perspective, Annah who runs our home and who lives down the road in a cement house with a corrugated iron roof, spent the night huddled in a corner holding on to her children, with the mattress as protection.This was the best she could do to provide shelter for them, because her roof had flown away!This is when we knew that as expats, we would be okay but the locals would struggle.
However, the Mozambicans seemed to be a lot more robust than many of us expats. Most of them were on the streets selling anything and everything. Communication lines were down for over a week but dozens of aid workers arrived within that time, to mainly help the villagers in the outlying areas whose homes were washed away by the swollen rivers. Each day as we drove out there was always something to give us hope that everything was going to be okay.
Some of the expats who had stayed during the cyclone, decided to leave, but the remainder met regularly and we kept hoping and praying that the sun would come out, just to give the locals some sort of reprieve to rebuild or even just to dry their belongings. As you can imagine everything was soaking as we had rain from Friday until the following Thursday.
Aid workers and NGOs from all over the world started flocking in, but we realised that not all the families in need. were being helped due to government red tape! As a group we decided that we would help the people near to us and hope that they would help others and so on.
I started campaigning on social media, and raising money for the women at Restoring Hope School. (These are the women who do my sewing for K8Afrika.) The women are all widowed and are the bread winners for their families. I had an incredible response from supporters during the week of the campaign. People from all over and even companies who had excess aid, were happy to help.
At the end of the week we were able to hand out 22 packages. 12 of the women work on K8Afrika and the other 10 are busy learning to sew,at the school. Each package contained: Maize, Rice, Salt, Sugar, Oil, Dettol Soap, Sunlight Soap, Purification tablets for water, 3m of plastic to patch up their home, biscuits, Colgate and mosquito coils.
The women were so happy and grateful for their packages. It was a small gesture. A quote very fitting for the exact situation that we encountered: ‘Helping one person might not change the whole world, but it could change the world for one person.’
Thanks to all of you who contributed towards helping the women of Restoring Hope School. I am truly grateful.
We are now eight weeks post-cyclone and it feels great to be back and doing and what we LOVE.