Cyclone Idai: ‘We saw 200 bodies by the roadside’



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A stranded motorist in Mozambique spent days trying to get from the port city of Beira to his home in Chimoio in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai, which has destroyed towns and villages in its path and left floods of up to six metres deep.

Graham Taylor, a Zimbabwean agriculture and forestry adviser who has lived in Mozambique's Manica province for 10 years, had gone to Beira on Friday to help his son with emergency repairs. He told the BBC about his return journey and the scenes he witnessed days before any aid agencies arrived.

I left Beira on Saturday at around 9am. About an hour and a half out going west to Chimoio, I encountered huge flood waters crossing this main newly built highway – vast amounts of water half a metre deep, six to seven kilometres (four to five miles) wide.

I managed to get through this and reached a little sugar town called Lamego. It was here that I became stranded, as ahead it turned out was a further 7km of flooded road, and where I witnessed the most horrific scene.

About 95% of the houses had been levelled and destroyed, especially those constructed out of poles and mud. If there was a roof remaining, people were on it. There were people on rooftops and trees – families, kids and babies on trees as far as the eye could see.

For two full days there was absolutely no sign of any assistance anywhere, except for one young white gentleman who lived in Lamego. He may have been with the American Peace Corps.

He had managed to get two 100m (330ft) length ropes and a lot of empty 20-litre (four-gallon) yellow plastic bottles, the containers in which cooking oil is sold.

He threaded a rope through the handle of the bottles and, using a little boat made of tree bark, he took the rope to a building, tied it to a window frame and then the people climbed out of the building and held on to the floating rope.

He had 10 people working with him and they ushered people along these two ropes in the water. Once the people were off that building, they would take the rope to a tree or another building – a slow process until they reached safety.

For a solid 48 hours while I was there, they never stopped working – throughout the night, they had the vehicle lights shining on the rope and the people. It was a human train of people being ushered and assisted to safety. He did a fantastic job.

BBC