Zimbabwe: Dutch Experts Descend On Cyclone Idai-Ravaged Areas

Ten companies from the Netherlands have committed to offering financial and technical assistance to rehabilitating Chimanimani district following the damage caused by tropical cyclone Idai last year.

This emerged after the companies travelled to the mountainous district last week to assess the impact of the cyclone, which wrought catastrophic destruction, death and displacement of entire communities.

Cyclone Idai made landfall as a category five hurricane and, having packed winds as strong as 170km per hour, raced to Chimanimani and Chipinge districts where it left a trail of destruction and loss of life.

It was described by the World Meteorological Services Organisation as the most powerful cyclone to ever hit the southern hemisphere.It claimed a total of 1 300 lives in Mozambique and Zimbabwe alone, although substantial damage was also reported in Malawi.

The 10 companies are working with the Netherlands government in a project called Greenstone, which is being co-ordinated by Realty Africa, a property crowdfunding platform which provides investors with opportunities in all aspects of associated developments in Southern Africa.

It works in conjunction with Fruitcon, a Dutch company that assists small to medium-scale horticultural producers in fresh export. The delegation consisted of hydrologists, engineers, architects and health specialists who are exploring the best ways to rehabilitate the area.

Last week's visit of the delegation to Rusitu Valley, in the heart of Chimanimani, which is one of the worst-affected areas, laid bare the fragile state of most infrastructure in Chimanimani as evidenced by the washing away of some of the bridges after just two days of rainfall, with most roads to the area made inaccessible.

Following the assessment, they will now work on modalities on how much money is required to fully rehabilitate the area, with negotiations already underway with local companies they will partner in the exercise.

The delegation also witnessed, first hand, the plight of most residents in the area who are still staying in tents since disaster struck in March last year. Realty Africa co-founder Patrick Chella said the project is aimed at bringing assistance to the area, which still bears the scars of the impact of Cyclone Idai.

"We named the project Greenstone because Zimbabwe is named the house of stone and we are doing something that relates to sustainability in terms of helping the people of Chimanimani and the colour of sustainability is green," Chella said. "Chimanimani is a mixture of beauty and sadness. The beauty of Chimanimani is amazing, but as you move along you see the scars, which is where the rocks which are the size of small cars fell as a result of the cyclone. There was so much damage and pillage caused by the cyclone. It brings tears to the eyes."

The delegation struggled to get to Rusitu Valley, which had the highest number of casualties in Chimanimani, as the roads to the area were flooded, with another route impassable after a bridge had been extensively damaged and this had been caused by less than two days of rainfall. The delegation only made it to Rusitu on the second day through slippery terrain that had them fearing for dear life. They were taken on a tour of the area and also saw the area where lives were lost.

He said the village heads in the area informed them that what is needed most in the area is housing and toilets."Can you imagine that nearly one year after the cyclone most people are still living in tents exposed to such rains. It is heartbreaking," he said.

Netherlands Enterprise Agency (NEA), a government agency which operates within the ambit of the auspices of the country's economic affairs and climate policy has been involved in the visit by the Dutch specialist companies.

Multilateral development banks and international organisations adviser at the NEA, Derek Bonthuis, said the trip to Chimanimani has been helpful in assessing the amount of assistance needed in the cyclone-hit area.

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