Mejl från JA!: Tankar kring cyklonen Idai

Idag mottog vi detta mejl från Anabela Lemos, direktör för JA! justica Ambiental (vår systerorganisation) i Mocambique:

dear all,

We have been receiving many questions about what is happening in Mozambique related to Cyclone Idai and what can be done to help, and at the same time we are still trying to understand a disaster of such proportions and see what we can do. It is not easy to ask for help, when we know the most important and immediate help necessary is boats and helicopters to take the people from the roofs and trees, and not everyone can do that. Yes we all knew the cyclone was coming, and maybe because we have seen many in our lifetime, we never expected it to have this level of destruction. Maybe because it was not only one issue – the cyclone – as in life nothing is a single issue, but also the floods due to the overflowing of rivers and probable bad management of the dams in the region, and intense raining (we were already expecting floods in some parts of the country, for this year).

At the same time we feel frustrated and impotent, what the hell is our government doing? Their apathy even when knowing what was coming, and they did absolutely nothing to be prepared. They should have had rescue teams in places where we know are prone to floods. Instead, our president went to visit Swaziland for some festivities during the cyclone, which basically says it all. It makes me and I imagine any other person feeling sick. Anyway, we decided to write this email with some information:

Week of 4th to 9th of March: at the night of the 7th the Rovubuè river (affluent of the Zambezi) reached its full peak, at the same time as the Cahora Bassa dam, which started releasing 3,000 cubic meters per second. At the confluence of Zambezi and Rovubuè happened a phenomenon called reflux, meaning that the Rovubuè could not discharge its waters in the Zambezi, thus creating a massive return of water to the basin of the two rivers. Total chaos, floods in two provinces, Tete and Zambézia. Nampula also impacted. People awoke with water in their houses, went looking for higher places, some got stuck in the roofs waiting for help. Many bridges started over-flooding and breaking, and we were receiving mixed information about dams in Malawi and Zimbabwe opening their gates. River Licuari also overflowing. Then we started receiving news about a cyclone coming, Cyclone Idai hit Beira, (central Mozambique), on the 14th and three provinces where affected. The high flows and dams in all rivers (and one dam that burst) was what made things much worse. It is a disaster never before seen in Mozambique. There are rivers full of crocodiles, people on roof and trees, bridges tore apart, most roads cut. Until two days later, on sunday 17th, there was no communication whatsoever.

Rescue teams started to arrive in Beira on sunday 17th, but much still needs to be done and only by boat or air. Since the night of the 14th they have no water, no energy, no communication, no banks, no shops, nothing is working. Total destruction in Beira, the rest of Sofala and Manica provinces.

Many people are still missing, we have family in Beira and don’t know about them until today (we received some news today, 21st, they are alive but their building has no windows or roof, not much more info).

South-african rescue teams are here, they were the 1st to arrive, and 3 ships from India are in Beira. A plane with militaries from Portugal is arriving tomorrow to help with the rescue, they couldn’t come earlier as they were waiting for authorization from our government. Again, what the hell is our government doing?

A ship is leaving Maputo on thursday (21st or during the weekend) with goods and basic needs, civil society in Maputo, schools, institutions, NGO, are organizing, many people and institutions are giving/organizing donations. We at JA also purchased many goods and delivered at the port. Many voluntaries helping at the port. The reaction in Maputo has been amazing, the solidarity between everyone and with one goal – to help. There is no trust when it comes to any government-related aid.

We still expect the situation to get worse as all rivers in the center are flooding, it’s still raining and probably will run until the weekend. All rivers in neighbouring countries are also in the same situation, as many are saying, this is the perfect storm. In the south we are also having heavy rain, on and off, and yesterday we received a RED alert for the south and probability of floods in Maputo city and surrounding. We just hope we don’t have the 2000 floods again. The electricity will be switched of tonight in Maputo province, to avoid accidents due to the heavy rain and thunder storms, and we don’t know until when.

For now everyone is focusing on emergence solidarity (except the government), and trying to help in some way, but there will be much more to do and to rebuild. As soon as roads are better (if and when the rivers come down) a team from JA will travel there and see what we can do.

Information is coming bit by bit, we are hearing shocking stories of around 300 to 500 bodies floating on the river in a 4km stretch, of people giving up and letting go from trees, children and women crying for help. Also many actions of opportunism and violence in a moment of mourning, pain and regret, which is very sad. At the same time some amazing stories of solidarity, one about one man and his boat rescuing many people, non-stop. That also gives us hope.

At the moment is still impossible to find out how many people died and how many are still in need of rescue.

The parliament did not meet during this week, to allow the parliamentarians to go to see the disaster. I doubt that the image of tragedy and suffering will change anything, they have seen much and done nothing. Some people from Beira and surrounding area are asking the government to stop flying over to see the disaster, and to take photos, when they should use the helicopters to rescue people, which is much more important. But all they want to do is see the scenery, from high up in the sky.

One thing is for sure, this is due to climate change, and if this is not enough for our governments to stop dirty energy, maybe next time they should be the ones in trees asking for help and seeing crocodiles. They need to start feeling what the people are feeling. Maybe that will make them human, and care about the people and the planet.

We are also wanting to know how the cyclone became so strong after the rivers started overflowing, if there is some connection there. Tomorrow(22) is also the highest sea waves of the year, it will for sure increase the water level in Beira city, and worsen the situation.

This was supposed to be just a note, sorry.

Thank you all for your messages of support and asking what can be done,we will let you know

I’m also sending news from minfo news

a luta continua

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