CHIMANIMANI – Ennia Muvhuni is a 72-year-old woman. She was sleeping in a wooden cabin in Chimanimani, Zimbabwe’s eastern province of Manicaland, when what had started as heavy rains suddenly metamorphosed into a monstrous cyclone.
Following hours of being pounded by the heavy night rains, the wooden cabin Muvhumi was sleeping in ultimately collapsed and got swept away by the floods. She and her four nephews – who were sleeping in a separate room, cheated death by a whisker as the house, which was still under construction, followed other structures that Cyclone Idai reduced to the rubble that was either swept away or buried under a mudslide. About a month later, there is no trace anymore of a structure that once stood on that ground – a house under construction.
“My life will never be the same again,” the cyclone survivor told AfricanVoice Global recently. “I virtually lost everything – my property, my fields and my house. I need to be moved from this place because my family is traumatized by this tragic event. I don’t know where to start from. I am paralyzed.”
Cyclone Idai hit the Port City of Beira in Mozambique before it moved inland to Zimbabwe and Malawi, bringing devastation – first with winds notching of up to 170km per hour, followed by heavy floods. Hundreds of people are still missing, while others were retrieved from under some rubble and soils in areas such as Ngangu, Copper and Rusitu.
An estimated two million people have been affected, with Mozambique, which was the worst affected, recording up to 417 deaths, with 1,400 injured while in Zimbabwe, 339 are reported to have been killed and more than 200 injured.
According to aid agencies, the exact death toll from the disaster could reach thousands. Roads and bridges were swept away, rendering the delivery of aid to survivors a herculean task.
Thanks to support from partners such as the European Union (EU), the United Nations (UN) and the cooperate world, who brought in helicopters to move aid to areas inaccessible road. Although aid has been trickling in to some areas where survivors were marooned by water, survivors are still traumatized by event.
The Cyclone also robbed people of their sources of livelihood and the magnitude of destruction left them poorer and without hope.
A visit to Ngangu high density suburb in Chimanimani recently gave this newspaper a closer view of the shattering impact of Cyclone Idai.
Although Muvhumi did not shed tears while narrating her ordeal, her face told the story of a woman who had desperately surrendered her future life prospects to fate.
“I survived this disaster by God`s grace. I can’t explain how I survived. I have never experienced such an incident ever since I was born. I have lived in this area since 1974,” she recounted.
“I lost all my neighbors and this is quite traumatizing. I virtually lost everything my house, my property and even my clothes. As you can see, my son was building a new house for me, but it was razed to the ground.”
Had she retained her livestock, her road to personal reconstruction would have been a bit easier, but she lost most of it.
“Only my chickens survived and I don’t know how they managed it,” she said, pointing at a chicken foul run which was dragged for some metres from her home.
On the fateful day, she retired to bed early but at around 9pm, she woke up to a train-like sound coming from the direction of nearby mountains.
“We normally receive a lot rains here because it’s Region 1, but this time around, it was frightening. I tried to check from the outside but it was dark….very dark. I could not even see anything,” said Muvhuni.
“The sound was coming closer and closer and I called one of my nephews, who told responded to me that the situation outside was bad. They were also confused and did not understand what was going on. I started praying to God to help us, but as I was praying, there was a loud sound and I could not figure out what it was.
“A few minutes later my leg was trapped by a log and water with huge volumes of soil soaked me. I could not do anything, I was helpless. I kept shouting for help. I remember calling my nephew saying, ‘Mac I am here if I die come and search for my body here’ because death seemed certain,”
Her old legs too weak against the brutal tied, she was saved by one of her nephews, who braved the violent storm and dragged her from the pool of mud.
“I was left naked. All my clothes were left stuck in the mud. There was no time to be ashamed. I had to walk stark naked to a safer place where I was given a cloth to wrap myself by another survivor. That is how survived, but as I walked by, I could see dead bodies hocked in between rocks and logs.
“This only happened for 20-30 minutes and later the darkness disappeared and reality began to unfold. To date, I don’t have a proper explanation of what happened, but we just surrendered everything to God`s hands and He is the Almighty and Creator,” she narrated.
Muvhuni said after the Cyclone calmed they moved to a local church, where hundreds who were rendered homeless had trickled to for safety.
“We saw bodies being brought into the church. We had to share the little space with dead bodies. Imagine young children sharing space with the bodies which were packed at the Altar and just wrapped with cloths,” she said.
“It was horror; I was requested as an elder to check on the bodies. There was nothing we could do save to just pray for the bodies. Some were still breathing but we could not offer any help. We were still traumatized by this horror encounter. It was so sad.”
Muvhuni, who was sheltered at a local Roman Catholic Church during this interview, where she was receiving aid, said they did not receive adequate information on the coming of the tropical cyclone in the area.
“We only heard that there would be rains coming. We were excited about the information since our crops were wilting from the dry spell. This area had not received rains in a long time. As a community, we were relaxed and no one expected that the rains will come with a destruction of this magnitude,” she said.
“Had the authorities adequately provided us with information we could have evacuated because no one would have risked his or her life to stay put.”
The cyclone left her susceptible to hunger as all her crops were washed away while her piece of land was reduced to a heap of boulders and gullies.
“We are now vulnerable to hunger because we survived on agriculture to sustain our lives. We need more aid than before. I am happy that foreign aid agencies have responded well to our problem. We are receiving food and clothes but I don’t know for how long,” she said, adding “we hope aid will be distributed fairly and transparently”
Muvhuni said Cyclone Idai traumatized them, adding the incident would forever be etched in their memories.
“The Cyclone will forever live in our memories. Losing the whole neighborhood at one go is scary and deeply troubling. The trauma is immeasurable”.
Going forward, Muvhimi hoped to government would financially support their relocation to a safer place.
“I can`t live here anymore. I need to be moved to a safer place. We can’t sleep and we are now afraid of rains,” she said.