HoverAid UPDATE 6: Cyclone Enawo
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When the rooftops disappeared beneath the river they swam for the trees.
Clinging to the branches it became evident that their gallantry would be their demise. The boats that carried their wives and children to safety could surely not return again. Then, through the wind and rain and darkness, the sound of outboard engines.
The evacuation of Antanandava took 9 hours. 3 steel canoes – owned and crewed by the town’s people – battled through Cyclone Enawo and the ensuing flood a total of five times to make sure that every last resident made it to high ground. The final villagers were rescued from the tops of palm trees at 1am. Not a single person perished.
But the devastation of their village was complete. When the waters had receded, the villagers returned to and unknown landscape. The new riverbank cuts through the middle of town. The homes that were not swallowed into the river were flattened by the torrent. In a village of 63 houses, 3 were left standing.
While many in Madagascar slip back into normal life after Cyclone Enawo, others must rebuild it from from the ruins.
The highly localised damage in the wake of the cyclone’s path across the country have hampered relief coordination. While a [opposite of utilitarian] approach focuses support on larger towns and those areas known to be badly affected. In these places less money reaches more people. HoverAid searches for those in need who are deemed unreachable by others – whether through lack of knowledge, logistical challenges or different priorities.
When the HoverAid team reached Antanandava across flooded rice paddies and through villages lying knee deep in mud, we were greeted with a paradox. A panorama of chaos and yet calm, order and positivity prevailed. Picking through the piles of shattered timber a mother and her young child gather muddied clothes. A young man, his grin missing several teeth, washes bark floorboards in the river. An older lady engulfed in plumes of dust scoops salvages rice husks from the wreckage of a grain store.
The scene is testament to Malagasy resilience. Over the coming weeks HoverAid will work alongside the people of Antanandava, within the local networks and economies, as they find their feet once more. Our mission is to enable this courageous spirit rather than supplant it.
But as the first outsiders to visit the town since the Cyclone there are urgent needs to meet too. The people here have not had a proper meal in a week and the improvised shelters offer little protection against the elements Madagascar’s wet season. After their bravery on the night of the cyclone new challenges face this community. We need your help to serve these people’s basic needs of food and shelter then to equip the community in Antanandava to look once more to the future.
Over the remains of the village, immense tropical clouds catch the final rays of sun. It will rain again tonight. Below in the shallows of the still swollen river, children shout and splash under the instruction of one of the boatmen. Compulsory swimming lessons are almost over for the day.
We have begun distributing tools for a number of carpenters, so that the rebuilding of houses can begin. The tarpaulins we have distributed have been very well received: these villages are situated on the edge of the rain forest and it rains here most days.
Today I went downstream to a village called Mamerinerina, where more than 30 houses have been washed away. We’re distributing nets to the fishermen in the village, they have agreed to share the bulk of the catch during the first three months with the villagers and this was pledged in the presence of the majority of the village so there’s a really good chance they’ll honour it.
Meanwhile, more news trickles in from very remote areas, especially from villages in the mountains; this morning I heard two stories of villages where more than 10 people in each village were killed by landslides . The old narrow gauge railway track is their lifeline – however this is also blocked by landslides and there is a heavily damaged bridge. I have had contact with the rail operator and the expectation is that it will take two to three months before it is operational again – that’s the only rail link from Tana to the coast!
The village where the most damage is expected, we have still had no contact from yet. This village is over 30 kilometers walk from where the withdrawal path is and even a motorcycle you can not get there. This is something we continue to do research into – we’ll work it out..
Peter van Buuren – Country Director, HoverAid Madagascar via whatsapp
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Once again please hold the people of Madagascar in your hearts today.
CEO HoverAid UK