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Cyclone survivors’ horror tales

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Rudo Mukwada of Chimanimani showing off what’s left of her belongings after the cyclone-induced floods at Ngangu business centre

BY Everson Mushava / Tapiwa Zivira

Rudo Mukwada of Ngangu township in Chimanimani is a heartbroken woman.

As a nurse at a local clinic, she took it upon herself to help fellow residents when Cyclone Idai rainstorms began to flood houses on the night of March 15.

“Our house had a strong stone-built perimeter wall, so when the water was now flooding others’ homes, mine appeared safe as water was being blocked by the perimeter wall,” she said.

Spurred by the instinct to save lives as prescribed by her profession, she knocked on all her neighbours’ doors, asking them to take shelter behind the wall at her house.

“They heeded my call and together we stood outside my house. After about 45 minutes, we heard strange noises and before I knew it, I was being swept away. The water had breached my perimeter wall.”

Mukwada made it out, having been saved by an island downstream, but 10 of the people she was with at her house did not.

“Five bodies were recovered near where we were standing, but five are still missing,” she said, close to tears and pointing towards a ditch in front of her house where the bodies were dug out.

A strong stench is all over the area, and Mukwada says it could be of some of the bodies that are yet to be recovered.

“It breaks my heart. I had thought I was doing this to save lives, yet in the end, they all died.”

All she wishes for now is to leave her recently-completedd house and relocate to another place.

“I am currently living at the clinic, and I cannot come back here. This place now haunts me.”

She is not alone. Many tried to save people, but ended up with heartbreaks.

A Ngangu resident explained how some people had sacrifised their lives to help others. He described how his neighbour, a Mr Samhiri, was swept away while trying to render help to another victim who had been injured.

“Some people were rescuing others who were trapped in their homes. For example, Mr Samhiri and a fellow resident were attempting to take someone who was injured and tried to cross a flooded river. He was just washed away. Maybe he hit a rock or something hard and then he just died. His body was recovered and was buried.”

Sithole added: “There was also this builder called Stephen. Together with others, he was helping people who were trapped in their homes. He was also washed away by the floods. His body was recovered and was buried. These are some of the people who sacrificed their lives for others.

“Most people who died were trying to rescue others. People were their own heroes here before the military arrived. Even after, people took a lead in recovering bodies and they are still doing the same.”

A heroic Tatenda Muzhambi (25), a yet to be employed qualified teacher, narrated how he helped some members of his family, including his wife, who had given up on life after they were hit by a massive mudslide while taking cover inside the verandah of a neighbour’s house.

“We were about seven in that verandah. A mudslide came and then another one. We were almost submerged. I rushed to rescue my mother. She was heavy and I had difficulties, but eventually I managed to lift her to safety.

“I did the same for my wife who was almost submerged. I tried and she was saying I should just let her die, but with a lot of energy, I pulled her out and the other three to safety.

“But before I rescued them, I was stuck in mud up to knee level. I was holding my baby. I continued to raise him and gave him to a woman who had come from another house. I turned amd saw my brother stuck in the mud and pulled him out. The woman who took my child threw him in the mud while trying to climb to the rooftop. My brother, who I had rescued, took my child and rushed to the nearest house that was at a high place for safety.

“I dont know where the energy I used to rescue other people came from. We all later took refuge at the neighbour’s house where we bathed my baby and wrapped him in a warm piece of cloth. It was horrible, but I lost two cousin sisters, Memory and Faith Mabindu. We have been looking for them for the last seven days.”

Kopa had its own heroes and heroines. Some residents narrated how some men had used ropes to rescue trapped friends and relatives until a kombi that was being washed away hit the rope, breaking it and forcing all those clinging to it to drown.

Majiva Magweva explained how a man braved the floods with a rope tied to his waist to get to the tree she and two other women had been patched for almost 24 hours, naked after being washed away by the floods.

“He tied the rope on each one of us and were were dragged to safety. Just after we were rescued, the tree waas washed away by the floods,” Magweva narrated.

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