There is still so much anxiety, fear, pain, sadness and tears among communities in the eastern districts of Chimanimani and Chipinge due to the human and environmental catastrophy brought about by the deadly Cyclone Idai. Yet, the majority of people in these communities have chosen to be stoic, by remaining indifferent and accepting their situation as God’s will.
In what appeared to be a normal rainy season in mid- March 2019, the people of Chimanimani were going about their usual daily activities, thanking the gods for yet another potential abundance in banana, maize and tomato produce. Little did it cross anybody’s mind that the angels of death were hovering over their community waiting to pounce at the opportune time.
On the night of 15 March Cyclone Idai struck in a way that left many questions unanswered. Before the Cyclone Idai induced rains and winds descended on the Skyline locality, there were blasts of winds which brought fourth water, mud and large boulders gushing down from the mountains with forces that could never be imagined.
Homes were destroyed, life was exterminated in the mayhem that ensued. The mountainous district was suddenly a big sea of flood waters in a matter of hours. Chimanimani residents are still reeling from the trauma caused by this unexpected turn of events. For those who survived this horrific disaster, the sad memories will undoubtedly linger on in their memories for eternity.
According to one victim from Machongwe Village, Pasca Chimwero, a middle aged man, by the time the rains stopped, many had lost their homes and their loved ones. “I lost five members of my family in the disaster. I could not understand what was actually taking place but what I heard were frightening noises which seemed to be coming from underneath like an earthquake, which shook buildings until they succumbed to the vibrations. Suddenly, our house collapsed killing four children who were sleeping inside and my mother-in-law, who was also inside died instantly from the impact.
“It is by the grace of God that I am still alive. When I tried to escape outside, I saw huge dark boulders and mud crushing down homes, flat to the ground. Crops were also destroyed,” said Chimwero.
Another victim The ZNA Magazine spoke to at one of the makeshift hospitals manned by military medical personnel at Skyline in Chimanimani, Beaulah Chadson from Machongwe Village, gave a narrative of her horrific encounter with Cyclone Idai. “We woke up as it was raining and noticed that water was now trickling into the house. We then carried the children to the bed and it was at that moment that the house was hit by large boulders and crushed. Five people, including my children, died and I am the only survivor. I do not have anywhere to go,” she said in between sobs
By the time the earth movements and rains had stopped, all forms of communication with the outside world were down, including the radios and the roads. The communities had been cut off from the rest of the world. Something horrible had crushed their world. An elemental creature from over the horizon had broken the certainties.
With the rains it had scooped from tropical seas of Mozambique and the winds it cranked in its belly, the calamity brought fear, diseases, hunger and trauma. Even the elders in Chimanimani admitted they had never experienced such a catastrophy in their lifetime. Neighbors cried for help yet no one could assist because everyone was fighting for dear life.
Another touching story is that of a girl who came home from a nearby boarding school only to find her family home and parents and siblings swept away.
When the ZNA and other organisations moved in to assist the survivors the following day, there was a realisation that not only food and road rehabilitation was urgently required for the affected, but also a lot of services such as medicines and counselling. The ZNA deployed most of their chaplains, undertakers and morticians. The dead needed to be taken care of and given befitting burials.
“The trauma that the villagers went through is something that we pray to God for help. Even as the relief efforts are still ongoing, rains are still falling and we are praying that they do not hinder efforts to recover the dead and assist the survivors,” said the ZNA Chaplain General, Colonel Ashani Bwanale.
“We lost many lives, numerous homes were destroyed, many families were displaced and wherever there is loss, there is normally grief and we need experts who are able to deal with that particular aspect of grief which is the reason why we deployed in this particular area-to give relief to victims of Cyclone Idai,” he said. Colonel Bwanale said that it was important for the victims to understand their fate as the disaster was an act of God.
The people of Chimanimani and Chipinge are still reeling from this doomsday-like catastrophy, confused, shocked and in dire need of food and shelter. The ZNA and other organisations stepped in timeously to offer some relief and avert further disaster. Indeed, a stitch in time served nine.