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Cyclone Idai buried people with their belongings

by Staff reporter
20 Apr 2019 at 15:45hrs | Views
WHEN we arrived in cyclone hit Chimanimani a week after the monstrous Idai, what we could only see at most places are stone boulders that had buried wholesome villages underneath and someone coming from another planet could think this is how the place has been all along.

The stone boulders, most of them unearthed by the floods are so well arranged, hence scenic.

They are big, shiny and one would need cranes to move them.

But nature drove these stone boulders from long distances and on the way they struck everything they came face to face with.

Some of the stones have been marked by the South African police rescue teams who are searching for bodies using specially trained sniffer dogs.

The markings, we were told, are a sign there are bodies beneath.

The dilemma is, the stone boulders are so big that without heavy machinery, survivors just watch powerlessly but remain hopeful their relatives' bodies would be retrieved and get descent burials.

It is astonishing how the landscape can change in a blink of the eye and survivors still cannot believe what really transpired as it happened while some were asleep.

So we were to learn that underneath these stone boulders, apart from lifeless bodies were people's belongings; clothes, food, books, certificates, blankets, beds, money and all.

Zimbabweans, especially those in the village take pride in owning cattle, goats, pigs and chickens.

But all these were buried together with their owners. It is a reality that is difficult to accept, but that is what befell the Chimanimani communities.

With wholesome villages swept away, my focus was on capturing images of the remains that hung in bushes, some were trapped between rocks while others were still floating in newly-made rivulets that never existed.

The flowing rivers were themselves not a pleasant sight considering they had brought calamities at hand - I could feel the chill.

Helicopters flew at small intervals as they dropped food aid.

People here say they had last seen so many helicopters during the liberation war when the Rhodesian Air Force roamed the skies looking for the comrades.

Cyclone Idai came during the night taking the lives of the valley settlers. Items once belonging to the banana planters were seen scattered on the Nyahonde river bed, in a mixture of large grey rocks, logs and wires.

First I spotted a single sandal near my foot and my mind rushed to imagine whether the owner still lives or I was underneath the rock that crushed them to death.

After the sandal there were many other items like curtains, clothing, car tyres, shoes and condoms... at least they used protection; I thought.

But on that night they failed to protect themselves and their loved ones. It became apparent this once bubbling community had been reduced to a grave site as people were buried with their belongings.

Surviving family members want closure, to see their loved ones in whatever state and give them a proper burial. A few have been lucky and have buried their loved ones.

However, it was refreshing to see some of the damaged infrastructure being fixed, roads getting an uplift, bridges being temporarily connected, and even foot bridges for the villagers to cross and continue with their daily lives which for now consists going to and from in search of hand-outs given by NGOs and other well-wishers.

The rush to get food forces many, even those afraid to cross the evidently slant foot bridges to set aside their fright and walk on a log with raging water underneath.

But since hunger is the driver, many courageously cross with fear written all over them.

Across the raging river was the once busy business centre, which now has a few buildings spared by the cyclone.

Here, many were seen waiting for aid, food mainly. There was a sigh of relief from many when they spotted a loaded truck driving towards the area where distributions were taking place.

At least crossing the risky log bridge had finally paid off.

It was not long when the expectant crowd realised that the truck was a load of empty buckets.

One woman we talked to after she made it across the log bridge testified she last had a proper meal three days ago, and whenever she had food, the children ate first.

The buckets had a list of recipients and they soon lined up to receive them. Later on we saw people carrying sacks of maize-meal coming from another direction. They crossed back and walked home with the precious supplies.

They were vending stalls nearby and not so much activity was happening since there were a few tomatoes, bananas and sugar cane for sale.

Given the banana plantations we saw on the way, the locals would have had enough of them by now. There were no buyers, then again most of their money had been swept away and ways of making money had been halted by Idai.

In another direction it was pleasing again to see some organisations who took time to entertain children; at least we were able to hear some laughs and see smiles.

Far away from Rusitu, is a place named Skyline where well-coordinated food distributions were taking place, many organisations have set up tents and are helping in various ways.

They are providing clean water, medication and food. I wished the people in Rusitu, where we first visited, would find means to get to this place where everything seemed to be flowing smoothly - everyone getting a bottle of cooking oil, 10kg maize-meal, sugar, milk and beans.

Source - dailynews