Sunday, June 23, 2019

A Visit to the Epicenter for the Cyclone Disaster in the Eastern Zimbabwe-A Solidarity Visit

From the 25 to the 27 April 2019 Rev Dr Sifiso Mpofu and myself (Rev Dr Levee Kadenge) visited the cyclone hit area Ngangu the local residential township. We started on this journey to Chimanimani area which was the hardest hit by the cyclone Idai winds which destroyed the area in an unprecedented way. When we were about 80 kilometers away from Ngangu center we started seeing the signs of destruction along the way.

We started seeing people queue-ing for food and other stuffs. You could see by the faces of the people that there was a disaster which they were living in. Many were living the distribution centers because there was not enough food available.

The roads were taken away and the ministry of Roads had to create by-passes so that vehicles could pass. We passed through so many destroyed parts of the road. But thank God the way to Chimanimani had been cleared. Upon arrival we found the minister, the Rev Chitiyo, of the United Methodist Church, had gone to the nearby school for further instructions on what to do. He was called back and he and his wife started narrating what had happened.

It was on the night in which the minister's wife came back for the holiday that disaster struck. It started at about 9pm and they had just gone to sleep. There was a strange sound and that was the beginning. They just thought it was just ordinary rains but the sound shocked everybody. Only to find out around 4am that dead people had already been put in the Church.  The Church now had eight dead bodies. Some came when they had already dead. Others died upon arrival. The Church became a mortuary.

The event just took about 30 minutes but the destruction was out of this world. Several homes had been destroyed. The line on the right side of their homes were all destroyed. A medical doctor who was one of their neighbors died together with his wife and three children. They were found at their neighbor's house and the occupants of that house where never seen. They were taken by the waters and were never seen.

The church was by now the only place people could put their destroyed furniture and kitchenware. There were six families in that one building. This is the place that had been used to house the dead bodies. Every aspect of debris which included furniture clothes were thrown around all over the area. Where there was a stream of a meter wide was now a river of about 50 meters wide. People could not just understand. Stones of every size was found there. They could not imagine were these stones came from. Some were just big boulders scattered around the area.

The minister buried on the first day about 20 bodies. At the end of the day they buried more than 132 bodies, that is in one grave yard. What was hapenning in other area was another thing. These are the bodies they could recover. Those bodies that were taken by the river just went into the neighboring Mozambique. Unfortunately we did not visit the other side of Chipinge which was also hard hit. You could not pass certain parts of the road. But the story was the same with more horrific tales from those who experienced the disaster.

This was a small way by which we could be in solidarity with the people by paying a visit as an Institute of Theological Reflection Today. It was in a sense a pastoral visit to these desperate people. We took with us 37 buckets of carrying water and some plates which we took from our offices in Harare. We left a small amount of money to help with the disaster.                   

Rev Dr Levee Kadenge