The sea is rising, the atmosphere is changing’: lessons from Mozambique’s deadly cyclone


The tree has been standing in the square for nearly 100 years.

His father planted it before Afonso Reis was born. Reis, who is in his 70s, says that he worked as a driver and “liked trees,” People used to eat bitter red fruits, but more recently, at a busy market in Beira, one of Mozambique’s largest towns, they have provided welcome shade for stallholders. I enjoyed sitting under the branches,”I liked sitting under the branches,” Others hawk bananas, oranges, garments that are secondhand.

Life changed, but it seemed like the tree was unchanged. A curious thing happened then.

Approximately 2 p.m. The tree unexpectedly flipped and fell to the ground on March 14, 2019. No one was injured, but it shocked people. “There was just a light wind,” says Fina. “Who would have thought that a tree of that size would just fall over? “Who would have thought that a tree of that size would just fall over?

More than 1,000 people were killed by Cyclone Idai and Beira, a sprawling port city of 500,000 people situated in a delta in the Mozambique Channel on the east coast of Africa, was destroyed. Next, the wind was strong enough to blow off roofs and hurl plates, tables, even cats and dogs through the air with gusts of up to 200 km per hour. Days went by with the stench of decaying animals thrown into the forest, then there were days of heavy rain and finally flooding.

Beira is at the mouth of two large rivers, the Buzi and the Pungwe, both of which burst their banks, submerging nearby villages, trapping residents on rooftops and forming a new, Luxembourg-sized inland lake. Thousands of trees have been uprooted and at least 70% of the buildings in the city have been heavily damaged, with many losing their roofs; six schools and 60 churches have been completely demolished. The cyclone blocked the roads and the airport was closed.

Supermarkets were running out of food.

They rationed bread and water.

More than 146,000 individuals were left homeless in four provinces. Nearly two years later, Mozambique is attempting to rebuild itself.

Yet we live in a time of natural disasters that are record-breaking: prolonged droughts, epic floods, apocalyptic forest fires. Will we see more regular disasters affecting nations that might not be prepared, such as Idai? In February, 11 months after the cyclone, I met Rita Chiramswuana, 51, and Fatima Vasco Limo, 45, in a leaky tent at Ndedja Camp, which houses 2,355 people in 471 households and is a two-hour drive from Beira. They are farmers from John Segredo, a village of 200 people in the vicinity, and together they have 16 children, including Zacarias, 11, who was adopted by Chiramswuana five years ago after the death of his mother and father.

Chiramswuana, with its sparkling look, is vivacious.

She likes jewellery and wears a blue nail polish and a bucket hat that is crocheted. Vasco Limo is calmer, more alone. For years, the two have been friends. Chiramswuana says, holding up her index finger, “Our friendship is like this,” “She’s like the finger and I’m the nail. “Chiramswuana, her husband and nine kids lived in the village in two small houses. A similar arrangement applied to Vasco Limo and her family. They raised their own food with nearby flowing water – cabbage, peanuts, maize, beans, and received enough money to send their children to school (education is free until 10th grade when students are 15, but parents pay for books starting in 8th grade). They could buy stuff for the household as well: plastic chairs, pans, forks.

There were 20 ducks and 30 chickens in Chiramswuana, 15 chickens and two goats in Vasco Limo, a symbol of high status in the village.

Both dreamed of having a “real house” and a lantern – built of bricks, rather than mud and straw. “It’s really late at night.

There are snakes coming in and you don’t see them,’ says Chiramswuana.

When Vasco Limo heard neighbors talking about the cyclone, she thought it might be the same thing (there was a government warning on the radio, but she doesn’t have a radio).

At 6 pm, she cooked sweet potatoes and other vegetables for her family. When the cyclone hit around 8 p.m., she was in her house with her husband and her three youngest children, ages 10, 14, and four (the others were in a nearby house).

She had her chickens and goats with her. 9 p.m. The roar got louder. Then there was a huge bang. “The roof flew off,” she says. They sat there all night, the house exposed to the elements


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