EDITORIAL COMMENT: National response to Cyclone Idai humbling

20 Mar, 2019 - 00:03 0 Views
EDITORIAL COMMENT: National response to Cyclone Idai humbling destruction caused by the cyclone

The Chronicle

Zimbabwe has risen unitedly in response to the impact of Tropical Cyclone Idai which hit Manicaland, Masvingo and Mashonaland East provinces between Friday and Sunday.

Indeed, the result of the weather phenomenon has been worse than horrific.

At least 104 people had been confirmed to have died after drowning, being buried by their collapsing homes, boulders rolling down mountains or in mudslides. 

Roads were extensively damaged in Chimanimani and Chipinge, two districts in Manicaland that were at the eye of the cyclone. 

Several bridges were swept away, the same for fields, livestock and other property.   

Videos circulating on social media with voice-overs of stricken villagers notifying their relatives of the calamity and pleading for urgent assistance are heart-rending.

In one such recording, a woman is heard crying that a community whose homes were built near a confluence of two rivers had been swept away as the area was now a body of water.

We also heard how pupils at Charles Lwanga Secondary School in Chimanimani were marooned, spending rough days side by side with bodies of two of their colleagues and a school worker who died on Friday following a landslide.

One thousand refugees at Tongogara were snatched to safety at the weekend, as they were in 2000 when Cyclone Eline hit Chipinge. 

Our hearts are pained by the devastation we are seeing. We mourn with those who lost their loved ones and wish the injured a speedy recovery. 

By recovery, we are not only referring to the more obvious recovery after physical injury but also emotional and psychological recovery.

It should have been intensely traumatic for those who, for example, saw themselves under the rubble of their collapsed houses in torrential rains or melting in fear while perched on rooftops after their houses were flooded or had their loves ones dying as they watched helplessly.  

We find it more painful that some bodies may never be found to be accorded decent burials after reports that a number of corpses were being spotted floating in rivers as far as Mozambique.  

However, we take comfort in the manner in which Zimbabwe, led by President Mnangagwa, has swiftly responded to the disaster.

At the weekend, he declared a state of disaster in respect to the areas battered by the catastrophe, a decision that is taken when a country has been hit by an emergency that it finds too big to respond to alone.

Through the declaration, the Government is appealing for assistance from anyone with capacity to provide it to do so.  

The President, also at the weekend, cut short his trip to the United Arab Emirates to be able to be on the ground to appreciate the extent of the challenge as well as to oversee the national response to it. 

On his return, the President addressed the nation, another step that highlights the gravity of the disaster and the seriousness the Government attaches to it.  

“No efforts or resources will be spared to reach all those in distress,” he said in the address. 

“Any extra life lost is one too many. I shall be leaving for Manicaland tomorrow (today) to acquaint myself with, and personally lend weight to rescue efforts already underway.  Government is doing all it can to reach all lives that can still be saved and to bring succour to families and communities fast running out of necessities, including food, medicines and shelter. Units of our Defence Forces have now accessed Chimanimani town where they have begun working with different arms of Government already active on the ground.  The blocked roads have to be reopened so food, safe water and medicines reach people who have congregated around hotels, churches, schools, community centres and other makeshift safe gathering points.”

The President and Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga are in Manicaland since yesterday.

Before the top level visit yesterday, ministers Perrance Shiri, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, July Moyo, Joe Biggie Matiza, Sekai Nzenza and Ellen Gwaradzimba had been on the ground already to better appreciate the crisis at hand.  

In addition, the Government has set aside $50 million to assist victims of the cyclone and restore destroyed infrastructure.  

As in any disaster of this magnitude, the first line of response was the brave men and women of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces. 

They have been leading the rescue operations aboard helicopters in extremely risky weather conditions in an area known for its mountainous terrain.

While the Air Force is conducting airborne rescue operations and scanning the damage below, the Zimbabwe National Army has been on the ground, opening up access roads, painstakingly looking for survivors and bodies of victims in the soggy rubble and among rocks.

Donations are pouring in from all over the country and abroad. Companies and non-governmental organisations are donating food items, blankets, clothing, and medicines among other necessities to the victims of the cyclone.  Individuals are involved too, the same for institutions like schools.   

The reaction so far has been amazing.  

We, however, note that the response is in respect to the immediate food and clothing needs of the people. After this, they will need to build new homes, rebuild their families; they will need livestock and so on.

Having been so helpful to date, Zimbabweans must be available again to assist their compatriots in reconstructing their lives in a more durable, long term way. 

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