Cyclone Idai: “We lost everything. Nothing is left.”

Julia (centre) with people who have had to leave their damaged homes following Cyclone Idai

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A devastating cyclone has brought death and destruction to Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi, with more than a million people in need of emergency help.

Our home has been destroyed by the cyclone. We lost everything. Nothing is left.

These are the words of Julia, pictured above with other survivors. Julia, a 37-year-old mother of three, fled with her children from their village to the city of Beira. She says:

We don’t have food, clothes, blankets for the night. I have experienced storms in previous years. But this was the first year I have experienced anything like this.

Cyclone Idai may be the deadliest cyclone ever recorded in the area. With winds up to 124 mph alongside torrential rains and flooding, Cyclone Idai has caused at least 150 deaths and affected more than 1.5 million people. Officials expect the death toll to rise, with Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi saying there could be more than 1,000 deaths.

Drone footage of coastal village affected by cyclone
Drone footage of Praia Nova Village, one of the most affected neighbourhoods in Beira, Mozambique

The cyclone hit Mozambique first, with the city of Beira and its surrounding villages receiving the heaviest blow. It continued from there to Zimbabwe and Malawi. There is an ongoing risk that others will lose their lives to flooding in the cyclone-affected region, with rainfall expected to continue. Marc Nosbach, CARE’s country director in Mozambique, said:

Roads to the areas hit by the cyclone have been completely blocked by fallen trees and rubble. The infrastructure has been completely destroyed.

Initial reports indicate significant damage to houses and buildings, including to health facilities and schools. There is a complete power outage. Telephone and internet communications are down.

Flooded and damaged buildings following Cyclone Idai
People in Mozambique assess the damage to their buildings and flooded land following Cyclone Idai

In Zimbabwe, the storm caused high winds and heavy rainfall in the east of the country, causing rivers to overflow. At least 31 deaths have been reported so far and more than 100 people are still missing. Jan Schollaert, CARE’s country director in Zimbabwe, said:

There has been flash flooding, landslides and destruction of livelihoods and properties.

CARE is assessing the situation to respond based on identified needs and in coordination with other aid agencies, but we know for sure that the needs of the affected people will be massive.

1.5 million people affected in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe

At least 56 people in Malawi died as a result of flash floods preceding the cyclone. Matthew Pickard, CARE’s country director in Malawi, said:

The rainfall has calmed down for now but the skies are grey and cloudy. Floods caused significant destruction last week. With the cyclone leading to more rainfall, the already inundated areas may face even greater destruction and losses.

We are working with the local authorities to support the affected communities and have deployed staff to assess the needs and gather the necessary data, to ensure our response is effective and addresses people’s needs.

In Mozambique, the heavy rains will raise the water levels in the rivers nearby the city of Beira and potentially cause floods that will impact a wider area in Manica and Sofala provinces. At least 66 people in Mozambique have died because of the cyclone, and the number is expected to increase in the coming few days.

Woman and her baby after Cyclone Idai
Enia Joao, 24, has 3 children, the youngest only 10 months old. She says: “In all my life I have never see such a storm like this”

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What CARE is doing

On Friday 15 March, the day after the cyclone hit Mozambique, a CARE team deployed to Beira to participate in a needs assessment alongside government agencies and other humanitarian organisations. The assessment team provided search and rescue for stranded people while conducting the assessment. CARE has already sent 13 trucks to the cyclone-affected area with items including 500 tents, 200 rolls of plastic sheeting and rope for temporary shelter, 2,800 family kits and over 2,000 hygiene and family packages containing items such as soap, buckets, mosquito nets, blankets, tarpaulins, and water canisters to reduce risk of disease. However, as bridges have collapsed, the convoy has been re-routed to Chimoio, from where supplies will be airlifted to affected communities.

CARE is liaising with other organisations and local authorities in Mozambique to minimise the impact of the cyclone, and our response is likely to include providing water purification tablets, menstrual hygiene items, jerry cans and soap, emergency latrines and hygiene promotion support to prevent water contamination and water-borne diseases. We will also be supporting recovery and rebuilding including agricultural support through the provision of seeds and livestock.

CARE places a special emphasis in all of its programming on women and girls, who are normally the worst affected by disasters and who often prioritise their families’ needs ahead of their own.

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.