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Horror Cyclone destruction trail unravels

by Staff reporter
24 Mar 2019 at 18:43hrs | Views
THE human toll of Cyclone Idai which hit parts of Manicaland and Masvingo recently has exceeded official estimates with the scale of the tragedy imprinting deep emotional scars on those directly affected by it.

The Daily News on Sunday crew and aid agencies on the ground in Chimanimani detail how entire villages and business centres have been completely destroyed in the wake of the high-end Category 2 storm.

More than one week on from the storm's initial impact,  more than 300 lives were lost in Zimbabwe.

In one of the harrowing stories emerging from Chimanimani, nearly 40 students from Dzingire Primary School in Chimanimani are feared dead.

Efforts to locate the missing students are underway with hope of locating them dissipating by the day.

Cyclone Idai smashed into central Mozambique last week before it tore into eastern Zimbabwe.

Over 200 000 people have been affected in the two provinces of Manicaland and Masvingo.

Roads and bridges have collapsed and homes destroyed.

In Chimanimani and Chipinge districts, close to Zimbabwe's border with Mozambique, at least half the population has been affected, according to preliminary UN assessments.

Chimanimani has suffered 90 percent damage, aid agencies say, with the Nyahode River bursting its banks and flooding large areas.

The eastern districts of Buhera, Bikita, Chikomba, Gutu, Mutasa and Mutare also sustained damage and people have been forced from their homes.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has since declared two days of national mourning, having already pronounced the tragedy a national disaster.

One of the worst hit is Ngangu, a high density suburb of Chimanimani, which is sitting on a health time-bomb as locals are using sewage-contaminated water sources.

Cyclone Idai-damaged sewage systems are depositing raw sewage in water sources in water streams flowing through the suburb, leaving battered locals vulnerable to a looming health disaster that could be triggered by water-borne diseases.

Local residents have been relying on a tank stationed at Ngangu Primary School from which cooking and drinking water is being rationed.

Locals who spoke to the Daily News on Sunday fear the worst.

"We are sitting on a ticking time-bomb. It's just a matter of time before there is either a cholera or typhoid outbreak," Ephraim Pondo said.

Rebecca Machona concurred with Pondo even though she said she was mainly using the water from the contaminated water sources for laundry and to flush in the toilet.

"We have a water crisis and without running water some people may just be boiling it and using it for cooking, you never know," Machona said.

Edgars Seenza, the Manicaland Civil Protection Unit chairperson, who is also the provincial administrator, told the Daily News on Sunday that he would only comment after verifying with relevant people.

"I have no information at the moment on progress on the ground as some of our teams got stuck on a mountain somewhere and we don't have communication. We are, however, sending some experts from the National University of Science and Technology who are going on the ground to assist," he said.

Another major casualty of Cyclone Idai was Peacock Business Centre in Rusitu, about 15 kilometres from Chimanimani — which was completely wiped off.

All that is left of the once busy business centre are a few patchy slabs.

Peacock Business Centre's plight has perhaps been underplayed because it was home to fewer people than the more populous Ngangu and Dzingire Growth Point.

Given the serious challenges and frustrations facing people in the affected communities, tempers are beginning to flare up.

Local parliamentarian Joshua Sacco has borne the brunt of the locals' anger and frustrations after he was booed in front of Mnangagwa and his deputy Constantino Chiwenga when they visited Chimanimani recently.

Apparently, Sacco had wiped water off his shoes after accidentally stepping into a water puddle after alighting from a helicopter in Cyclone

Idai-ravaged Ngangu high density suburb.

This enraged some locals who thought he was being insensitive to those who now live in swampy areas.

"He took his family out of harm's way and abandoned us to the cyclone only to appear with the president and then he has the nerve to wipe his shoes after stepping into a mere  water puddle?" an agitated Ngangu villager who declined  to be identified said.

Some locals, though, think that Sacco is a small part of the problem.

They believe that the Cyclone Idai crisis was poorly managed by government.

"People are not happy at how they have handled this crisis. They failed to quickly inform government and the international community on the severity of the problem and we feel that it delayed the assistance that we could have got," Samson Ndiadzo said.

Cyclone Idai was one of the worst tropical cyclones ever to hit Africa and the southern hemisphere.

It formed off the eastern coast of Mozambique in early March and hit the country's coast a first time before heading back out into the Mozambique Channel.

It intensified, weakened and intensified again before hitting the Mozambique coast for a second time on March 14.

Winds reached up to 177 km/h (106 mph) and heavy rainfall caused disastrous flooding across a number of countries.

After hitting Mozambique, Cyclone Idai tore into Zimbabwe killing many people as they slept.

The 83-year-old husband of one Chimanimani resident was buried alive when their bedroom collapsed on them last Friday.

"We were sleeping in the house around 10 pm. in the evening and it was raining. It kept on pouring when rocks sliding from the hill started hitting our house," said the 59-year-old.

"The stones we built our house with collapsed on us, and then I yelled, ‘oh my, I'm dying!' The soils had filled my mouth, nose and ears. Water filled the house to almost my neck level ... I started to shake my husband's body to no avail. He was already dead."

Efforts to bring aid to those affected by Cyclone Idai have been on-going with government, corporate Zimbabwe and individuals responding overwhelmingly to the crisis.

Government has been airlifting food to some of the areas where people are still trapped with members of the Zimbabwe National Army and the Air Force of Zimbabwe searching for missing people.

Source - dailynews