Zimbabwe: Cyclone Idai - the Tears of Bikita

23 March 2019

Cyclone Idai victims in Bikita look up to the heavens for respite as they ponder how disaster seems to only stalk them.

Friday March 15 will always remain etched in the memories of villagers in the disaster-prone district on the eastern frontier of Masvingo, a province known for infamy when it comes to recurrent droughts and food woes.

The Bikita folks were at the receiving end of a devastating tropical cyclone, Idai, itself a manifestation of how destructive nature's fury can be. One of the victims left in quandary, like his fellow kinsmen, is 33-year-old Munyaradzi Warure.

While the rampaging cyclone's raging force were felt as far as Mozambique and Malawi, Warure, a father of three from Takawira Village in Mukanganwi, Idai's advent was a calamity that left him clutching helplessly at ground zero. In its wake the tropical cyclone flattened his granary, collapsed his kitchen hut and left his one-roomed house in ruins, robbing him of more than five years of painstaking work.

"I am at a loss for words over what happened to me when the cyclone struck my homestead on Friday March 15. I was left with completely nothing, and I do not know whether I will ever recover," bemoaned Warure.

"The kitchen collapsed destroying utensils such as metal and clay pots, and more cruelly all my 13 road-runner chickens among other valuables that were inside."

Warure said his two children, Devine and Vivid attending Grade Five and Grade Three, at the nearby Vushe Primary School, respectively, were also sleeping in the kitchen hut on the fateful night.

"Luckily, we were awake when disaster struck and we rushed to evacuate them to safety after we heard the sound of bricks that were falling off the kitchen. It was a complete disaster and I will never forget that," he poured his heart out.

While Mother Nature seems to always deal Bikita an ugly hand, Warure said the destruction wrought by Cyclone Idai was too much to bear. He reckons that scars from the destructive impact of the disaster on his life will take a lifetime to heal.

"What makes me powerless right now is how I am going to rebuild what has been razed in this harsh economic climate, because not only were my household items destroyed, but also food stocks in the granary. I do not even know where I will get money to purchase building materials to reconstruct my collapsed structures. It will take me at least five years to rebuild, because I am not gainfully employed," the overburdened father of three said.

Warure's plight was exacerbated by the fact that his only hope to get a roof over his family members' heads was to rent a small house at Bikita district offices, while waiting for the heavens to open doors for him to rebuild his "dream homestead".

"When my homestead was hit by the cyclone I sought refuge at my father's place together with my family, and the few belongings that I salvaged from the ruins. But now I have no choice save to move out and rent a small room at the business centre nearby because my father says he cannot keep me and my family anymore. I found lodgings at Bikita district offices at $20 per month, so that is where I am taking my family today (Thursday) in the evening," he said.

Warure said while his home area was disaster-prone, the will-power to leave was almost non-existent because he cannot fathom the prospect of leaving his ancestral land.

"This is where we grew up and my forefathers are interred here, so I will stay here and also die here like those before me. I think when I rebuilt my homestead I would need to put more emphasis on making the structures stronger for them to be resilient," reflected Warure.

For his wife, Ms Tatenda Mutyada (21) Cyclone Idai shattered the dreams of her infantile family, leaving her on the brink, but she remains hopeful of better days ahead.

Recounting the horror of the March 15 night, Ms Mutyada said she owe it to God that all her children were safe and alive.

"When we heard the sound of the collapsing kitchen we woke up, and evacuated our two children, who were sleeping inside around 12 midnight. We packed ourselves in our one-roomed house, but the worst was not yet over," she recounted.

"At around 3am we discovered that water was oozing from the floor of our bedroom house where we had sought refuge with our three children. My heart sank when I realised that the walls of the house had begun to crack. Fearing for the worst we packed a few belongings we could carry and left," said Ms Mutyada.

With her husband, kids and a few belongings they slipped into the dark, rainy and windy night; and headed for her father-in-law's homestead about one kilometre away where they sought refuge. The next morning they returned home to find a sorry state as Cyclone Idai continued to vent its fury on what remained of the homestead, sweeping away any lingering hopes of salvaging anything for poor Ms Mutyada and her family.

"What pains me most is the traumatic experience endured by my school going children (Devine and Vivid). Initially they were refusing to go to school, and cried as they were scared of what would happen to them if the rains hit their school," she said.

Their school (Vushe) also has scars from the cyclone after some of the toilets collapsed during the disaster. Hoping for a better and more rewarding tomorrow, Ms Mutyada and her husband have renewed vigour to confront fresh challenges fully aware that every time a storm comes, calm follows.

To her, her husband and children as well as many other Bikita villagers, who lost 5 of their loved ones and property in the wake of the rampaging Cyclone Idai, there is a nagging feeling in the eerie of their silence; and the question at the pinnacle of their hearts is, which they could not ask publicly, in all their suffering, where could possibly God be?

Cyclone Idai, which swept through Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe last week, destroyed villages, towns and the port city of Beira in its path. Hundreds of people have been killed and hundreds of thousands more have been affected by this worst natural disaster to ever to hit this southern hemisphere in nearly two decades.

Reports made so far indicate that Cyclone Idai which ripped through Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique has left close to 2 million people affected with 142 deaths in Zimbabwe, 57 in Malawi while in Mozambique it is feared that up to 1 000 people have died. Many more are still missing and the death toll is still rising.

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