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20.03.2019 Africa

Marooned Mozambicans Cling To Life On Roofs, Terraces

By Joaquim Nhamirre, pictures Adrien Barbier and Maryke Vermaak
Stranded: Survivors of Cyclone Idai gather at the basketball stadium in Buzi, central Mozambique -- a relative haven from the flood water.  By ADRIEN BARBIER (AFP)
MAR 20, 2019 AFRICA
Stranded: Survivors of Cyclone Idai gather at the basketball stadium in Buzi, central Mozambique -- a relative haven from the flood water. By ADRIEN BARBIER (AFP)

Perched on the terraces of a sports stadium, scores of marooned people stare down at a basketball court filled with dirty brown water.

Five days after a vicious tropical storm tore through their neighbourhood in Buzi, central Mozambique, they remain trapped by flood water.

People gather on the roof of a house in Buzi. Some survivors say they have lost all their possessions. By ADRIEN BARBIER (AFP) People gather on the roof of a house in Buzi. Some survivors say they have lost all their possessions. By ADRIEN BARBIER (AFP)

A short distance away, another group is huddled together under an orange garden umbrella, on the roof of a church.

Stranded residents are desperate to be evacuated, but food and clean water are even more pressing needs.

"The situation is very bad, we haven't eaten since Thursday, until today. We are sleeping outside, everything is destroyed, our houses are destroyed, everything is gone, we have recovered nothing," said Aunicia Jose, 24, speaking in Gwara-Gwara, near Buzi.

South African military personnel deliver relief aid to Buzi -- just a handful of helicopters are available for this crucial work. By ADRIEN BARBIER (AFP) South African military personnel deliver relief aid to Buzi -- just a handful of helicopters are available for this crucial work. By ADRIEN BARBIER (AFP)

A mob of villagers rushed to an open space where a helicopter had just dropped food, an AFP reporter saw.

Joel Baertschi, a chopper pilot for a Christian humanitarian group, told AFP his organisation had flown in tonnes of food, sometimes plucking people from treetops and roofs, and was now setting up a camp for survivors.

Buzi lay in the pathway of Tropical Cyclone Idai, which smashed into central Mozambique last Friday before cutting a swathe through southern Malawi and Zimbabwe. By ADRIEN BARBIER (AFP) Buzi lay in the pathway of Tropical Cyclone Idai, which smashed into central Mozambique last Friday before cutting a swathe through southern Malawi and Zimbabwe. By ADRIEN BARBIER (AFP)

"We can tell clearly that there is a lot less water now. I reckon one to two metres (3.5 to seven feet) (down) although I am not an expert," he said.

"When we first saw them on Monday, they were in water up to their necks."

The outskirts of Buzi now resemble a vast brownish lake. But rescue helicopter pilot Joel Baertschi says waters seem to be slowly receding -- a boon for the struggling relief effort. By ADRIEN BARBIER (AFP) The outskirts of Buzi now resemble a vast brownish lake. But rescue helicopter pilot Joel Baertschi says waters seem to be slowly receding -- a boon for the struggling relief effort. By ADRIEN BARBIER (AFP)

He added: "Most of them were on rooftops or gathered on trees huddling into each other and today we actually saw (some of) them walking in Buzi.

"Although the town is still flooded, it gives an indication that the water is going down and help will be easier to access the place."

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