Three southern African countries are in the path of a rampaging tropical storm. Cyclone Idai has since late last week ravaged parts of Mozambique, eastern Zimbabwe and Malawi.
The effect of the Cyclone has aptly been captured as having left a trail of death and destruction, both by governments and by international humanitarian agencies working to help ease the pressure on the three countries.
The focus of this article is on Beira – the city most affected by Cyclone Idai. A city that was effectively cut off from the rest of the world and the country when the Cyclone arrived.
Beira has been severely battered. But we are also hearing that the situation outside the city could be even worse. Yesterday, a large dam burst and cut off the last road to the city.
Beira is in the media spotlight, it is the epicenter of the disaster that has unfolded in the last few days. It is simply: A port city in eastern Mozambique on the Mozambique Channel. The Channel in question is an arm of the Indian Ocean between Madagascar and southeastern Africa.
Here are 10 key points about the barred, beaten and battered Beira:
1 – It is Mozambique’s fourth largest city coming behind Matola, Maputo City and Nampula.
2 – It is capital of the Sofala Province with an estimated population of 533,800 (2017 census).
3 – It is home to Port of Beira – a gateway for trade into the country as well as for land-locked Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi.
4 – The city is situated at a point of convergence of the Buzi and Pungwe Rivers – two major water bodies of Mozambique.
5 – According to international Red Cross, 90% of Beira was destroyed by Cyclone Idai.
6 – The city was established in 1890 by the Portuguese. Its was originally called Chiveve – named after a local river.
7 – The name Beira was after the Portuguese Crown Prince Dom Luis Filipe who carried the title Prince of Beira. The renaming happened after the prince became the first royal to visit Mozambique in 1907.
8 – The city was one of the worst-hit during the civil war of 1977 – 1992, at a point a famous hotel housed an estimated 1,000 locals.
9 – The last major natural disaster that hit Beira was in 2000. Floods in and around the city left millions homeless.
10 – Some of its tourists hotspots include the following: Old Portuguese residencies, the Cathedral, Lighthouse, Macuti Beach, the port, small Venice and the Savanna Beach.
Others are: Natural habitats the Forest in Inhangau, Praia Nova, Mira mar, the mangrove forests and walkways, the ruins of hotels, such as the Grande Hotel da Beira, Estoril, Don Carlos, among others.
The local economy is also boosted by way of restaurants, cafes, bars or hotels and resorts that serve tourists who visit the area.
Cyclone Idai and the trail of death and destruction
Malawi suffered massive displacements arising from floods, scores were also killed before Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique and Zimbabwe. The cumulative death toll is in the region of 200 as at Tuesday 19 March.
But Mozambican president Filipe Nyusi told state media that the deaths in the country alone could exceed 1,000. The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, IFRC, said that the death toll of less than 100 could significantly shoot up.
The scale of damage caused by Cyclone Idai that hit Beira was described by the IFRC as massive and horrifying. The city was cut off from due to the effect of strong winds and rains that continued across the week according to reports.
Most communities were submerged with all communication lines cut off. Deaths have been reported along with massive human displacement and destruction of buildings.
Jamie LeSueur who led the IFRC team on an aerial assessment said: “The situation is terrible. The scale of devastation is enormous. It seems that 90 per cent of the area is completely destroyed.
“Almost everything is destroyed. Communication lines have been completely cut and roads have been destroyed. Some affected communities are not accessible.
“Beira has been severely battered. But we are also hearing that the situation outside the city could be even worse. Yesterday, a large dam burst and cut off the last road to the city,” he stressed.