Incessant rains leave Chimanimani on edge

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WITH infrastructure rehabilitation taking ages to complete and hundreds still living in camps 10 months after tropical Cyclone Idai hit Chimanimani, it is not surprising that the current wet spell has put locals on the edge, fearing another disaster.

Cyclone Idai struck Zimbabwe in March last year, leaving 340 people dead and many others missing.
The floods and landslides affected 270 000 people, with many people losing their homes.

The rain-soaked and damaged landscape is already experiencing more landslides with temporary bridges being washed off in heavy downpours that kept hundreds of students out of schools due to flooded rivers and some roads impassable over the past week.

Two bridges along the Chimanimani-Mutare highway were washed away last week and later restored within hours by contractors who are working at rehabilitating the original bridges.
Transport operators in Rusitu valley said they were completely grounded for two days last week due to muddy roads and flooded rivers.

“We were completely parked on Wednesday and Thursday due to mud and flooded rivers,” Noah Matamande, whose commuter omnibus plies the Muchadziya to Mutare route, said.

He said pupils in the areas were kept at home as parents exercised caution against having their children cross flooded rivers.

Teachers and pupils at St Charles Lwanga — a Roman Catholic school that lost two pupils and a staffer in a mudslide that buried part of the school and had its boarding school completely closed last year, are living in fear over the threat of a massive boulder precariously hanging above the school.

The school has been battling to divert streams of water that are following water channels that were opened by the cyclone, a school official who declined to be named said.

“We are living dangerously and it will not be a surprise if we have an even worse disaster because there is a huge boulder that is above the school which is now dangerously exposed after these heavy rains.

“Some teachers’ houses have been flooded and we have been busy diverting the streams of run-off that are coming directly into the school,” the official said.

He revealed that the school has since been condemned by the government as located at an unsafe place and given alternative land to build another school.

Manicaland provincial education director flooded rivers said the school was only allowed to reopen at the request from local parents and they had to seek clearance from their head office.

“There is a nearby school — Tiya school, which some of them walk past to St Charles… we thought that since the tragic event happened during the night the school could dismiss pupils if there is too much rain and take them out of harm’s way,” Shumba said.

Andrew Mwareya, an elder in Ngangu, said while the current weather conditions were re-traumatising, the rain-soaked ground was making tent life unbearable for hundreds of his former neighbours who are still enduring life in three camps.

“Life in tents is really unbearable especially with the ground is so soaked and they are all being affected with run-off which is flowing into their camps,” Mwareya said.

Chimanimani Hotel general manager Mandla Mataure, who housed hundreds of displaced locals in the wake of the cyclone, said they were at some point tempted to take some of the people back into solid shelter.

“We thought about it and we are certainly distressed by the living conditions of these people in these rains and we even considered reopening our doors for them,” Mataure said in an earlier interview adding that the tents were themselves not meant for raining environments, but desert climatic conditions having mostly been donated from the United Arab Emirates.

The government is yet to move any of the locals 11 months after they were rendered homeless by the March 2019 violent storm.

Response to the cyclone has been widely condemned as falling short of being satisfactory by locals who feel that the world may soon move on as they would not keep supporting them indefinitely.

“The government response has fallen way short of our expectations as locals as homeless people were never supposed to endure a whole summer without any houses being built for them.

“There does not seem to be any urgency at all on their (government) part and it does not inspire any hope that this will end well,” Alton Tsopo, a Chimanimani resident said.

Provincial development coordinator and head of civil protection unit Edgars Seenza said the delay was in part due to organisations and institutions who initially pledged to support construction of houses failing to honour their pledges with the government committing its resources to infrastructural rehabilitation.

“The government is working on that issue. The problem was that some who had pledged to support in the construction of houses have not honoured their promises.

“The government had then focused on mobilisation for rehabilitation of roads, but it has since begun mobilising resources for the houses and there is some money now.

“There was a meeting in Harare yesterday (Friday) deliberating on this issue, which l failed to attend. I will be appraised soon,” Seenza said.

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