I heard that there was going to be a cyclone in Beira, but I didn’t think too much of it as there had been a ‘cyclone’ in January that had caused some flooding in the city but flooding happens every year. However, this time the team received an email from Rachel, the BMS relief coordinator, regarding the cyclone, and it was only a few days before that I began to realise that this was going to be a lot stronger and more serious than the last one. My English friend, who helps to run an orphanage was preparing the windows and roofs for the cyclone and everyone was stocking up on food, petrol, etc.
We knew that the government had ordered a curfew from 11am on the day that the cyclone was planned. We saw some mini videos of the wind on the beach and yes it was quite windy. We were in Brazil at the time, on holiday visiting Sergio’s family, and Brazil is 3 hours behind, so we followed these events throughout the day and night.
As we were getting messages from friends and seeing how the wind was picking up, we began to get more worried, praying that God would look after everyone there.
The most worrying time was in the evening, I can’t remember if it was 10:30pm our time or their time, we were getting messages from a friend saying that her windows had broken and water was coming into the lounge and kitchen and she was worried. We also got a message from a friend who thought that the roofing on her daughter’s bedroom had come off, water was coming in and the children were in the hallway sleeping. While another person further out from the city said that her roof had come off, the house was flooding, and they only had the false ceiling to protect them, which is very dangerous if a tree were to fall on the house. They said that all they could hear were tin roots flying in the air and windows breaking. We were trying to assure our friends as best we could, with tears of worry falling down our cheeks,…… and then there was nothing. We were in the dark. No phone networks were working. Those who were not in Beira at the time in our Brazilian watsapp group were frantically messaging and trying to get replies to see if they were ok, but nothing.
It was so difficult to sleep that night knowing the terror that our friends were going through and there was nothing physically we could do to help them and not knowing if they were ok. Tears flowed and worry set and we prayed. Imagination comes into play and you think about the worst possible outcomes and situations. The next day we managed to see some photos of the aftermath from people who had travelled to get signal outside the city. Places we knew looked totally different, the city had changed over night. This was upsetting but what was most upsetting was not knowing how our friends were. The cyclone happened on Thursday night and it wasn’t until Sunday that we heard that ‘everyone is ok’. It doesn’t sound like very long, but it felt like a very long time, and we can’t imagine how families must have felt not getting news from their loved ones. We only found out our friends were ok because flights began on Saturday and some visitors who were staying with our friends were leaving that day and they got in touch with one of our friends and sent photos. If it hadn’t have been for that, we still wouldn’t have known. Also the question in our heads was who is ‘everyone’? All the Brazilian missionaries? But were they all really accounted for? Also what about other non-Brazilian friends, how are they?
Over the following days, more communication came in via satellite phones, one network was on and off, and we saw some lists of people who were reported as safe. They still didn’t have electricity and to get any network they had to go near to the airport. By now we were just so grateful that all of our friends were accounted for and were physically well, though it was a very traumatic experience for them and some have to find new homes or get repairs done. Most of the trees in our garden fell down, although we were most concerned about 2 very tall, lean coconut trees that were very close to our house and could break the roof. However, they didn’t fall thanks to God. They are apparently leaning quite a bit so we will probably have to cut them down to prevent any accidents, but we were very relieved. Water did come into some rooms in our house but our team leader had already raised up anything that was floor level. Some tiles broke, but compared to other people, our house was fine and totally liveable. The difficulty then was seeing the destruction that the cyclone had caused in the city and in the surrounding areas. I’m sure you have seen photos and videos in the news. So many people dead, people injured, without homes, food, clothes. These people already didn’t have anything compared to us, now they have absolutely nothing! Their lives need to be rebuilt not just their homes.
When we were in Brazil, it was so hard to focus on anything except our city and to be so far away in such a big time of need was difficult. We prayed and spoke with our leadership and decided to return early to Mozambique. Sergio would go on to Beira to assess the situation alongside Carlos, our BMS Mozambican team leader, who lives in Beira. Liz and the children would stay in the capital, Maputo, until it was safe for them to return. He has been there now for four days and from what he says things are getting back to some normality – for those who have houses and money!
The only road out of Beira was destroyed by the strong flow of the flooded river, but it has already fixed so now the shops that are open can stock up, gas for cooking can be delivered (our friends were cooking on a fire), petrol can be delivered as well as mineral water that was sparse in the aftermath. The power is also back on and phone networks are working.
Rachel, the BMS relief coordinator, arrived in Maputo yesterday and will travel to Beira today to help Sergio and Carlos assess the situation and to draw up a plan of how the CBM (Baptist Convention of Mozambique), BMS and other Baptist organisations can best help the people affected by this tragedy.
We are thankful to all the aid and relief organisations and people that are donating to help the massive number of people in need. It will take a very long time to rebuild all that was lost and more help is needed and will be needed for a long time. The other big problem at the moment is disease. We have heard that children are already dying or ill from cholera and the number of malaria cases has increased.
Here are some statistics from the UN:
- 447 deaths
- 1500 injured
- 58,600 houses destroyed
- 500,000 hectares destroyed
- 1.85 million people in need
Psalm 121 says “I lift my eyes up to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from You, maker of heaven and of earth”, and this is what we believe.
Please continue to pray for Mozambique and the long road ahead for so many, ad for those who out their lives.
To find out more from BMS, go to: https://www.bmsworldmission.org/news/cyclone-idai-mozambique-needs-prayer/