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Published: June 28th 2008
After the storm
Many homes on the coast and inland were destroyed by the storm. For those in rural areas, a traditional household will have two or three small houses, and many lost atleast one of their homes. Others lost all.
Arthur, our friend and owner of Khaya LaManzi (which means ‘Ocean Home’ in Zulu-it is a bed and breakfast here in Hibberdene), says that the recent storm was a freak of nature. It was created by a high-pressure system that came in from out at sea, unlike the normal weather patterns that should send storms up the coast in a low-pressure system. He says he has never seen this type of storm at this time during the year.
It began very early last Tuesday morning with heavy rains and high winds. The seas were roaring and groaning, waves crashing hard, water a dark black. It was intense. You could watch as the rains came from out on the Indian Ocean. The rains lasted for 48 hours. We did not make the trip through the Cane fields to the Thanda Afterschool on Tuesday or Wednesday, staying in our house in Hibberdene. Tuesday evening our power went out and did not come back on until Thursday evening.
The damage to the coast was extremely evident. The heavy rains washed all kinds of trees, trash, and debris out to sea from upriver and then up onto the beaches. There were trees floating
normally those waves are a light blue.
in the waves. On the second day we got word from Sacred Heart Children’s Home (whose facilities we use to run our Afterschool Program) that the rain had overloaded the gutter systems and flooded the whole home including the chapel, multi-purpose rooms and offices. Children’s rooms were flooded as well. They had spent the whole night and most of the day scooping out water, getting up on the roof in the middle of the rain and wind to clean the gutters of debris so they could drain properly. We began calling our staff members, most of whom did not answer or their cell phones were turned off. Rah, our youngest staff who is just 18 years old, told us that his neighbor’s house had crumbled. On Thursday we finally ventured out to see how the dirt roads were holding up. To our surprise the road crews were already out with their tractors and levelers. Except for a few rough patches, the roads were passable. Most houses appeared to be intact, with the exception of two houses we saw from the main road which had crumbled.
Just a few minutes before arriving at Sacred Heart, we came upon a
This is what the beach near where we live looks like on a normal, clear day.
Bush Taxi that was stuck in a rivet in the road created by the heavy rains. We got out of the car and helped push the taxi out. After helping several other taxis made their way across this section of the road that had now become a small stream, we pulled out our tools and began working on the road. We first dug a trench to redirect the water to another spot where there was a drainage pipe to drain the water under the road. We then began collecting all of the rocks and debris we could find to fill the two huge rivets that had developed from cars and trucks continuously traveling on the wet and weak dirt road. We were working alongside one mane from the community, he called himself Edward, a carpenter who lived just up the way and had his carpentry shop in an old missionary church building on the top of a hill. I was impressed by his commitment to helping get this road fixed; he had come out here on his own will and was spending his time and energy fixing a stretch of road that was actually past his home (in relation to
After the storm
the storm washed all kinds of debris up onto the shore. They are still cleaning it up two weeks later.
the city) and therefore a section that he never uses. We worked on the road for about an hour and a half before deciding that it was enough; the road was now passable and further improvements must wait for the roads to dry out.
By the time we arrived at Sacred Heart, much of the water had been sopped up. Things were almost back to normal, and it appeared that our offices had not been drenched as we had thought they might be. We seemed to have dodged a bullet.
But as we would learn that day through phone conversations with staff, and with conversations with kids on Friday and Saturday, the storm had devastated the community. Crops had been destroyed, livestock swept away, houses crumbled/demolished. I am still not sure how much damage there has been, and we are not sure as a group. We are still in the information-gathering stage, and it is still unclear what our role will be in this whole situation. What is our role, as an afterschool program, in a crisis like this? As we began to put our program back together for the final week before the school term would end
and holiday would begin, these were the questions we were faced with. Maia Casagrande, one of the Program Directors of Thanda, put it very eloquently in a recent update sent out to Thanda supporters on the work we are doing and the state of our kids and their homes after the storm:
"Some families were relatively untouched. Their homes, livestock, crops, way of living, were mostly spared by the incessant rain and subsequent floods. Many were not as lucky. Their shoes lie at the periphery of the their land, washed out of the house that used to be. Crops drowned, flattened, or simply swept away. Single mattresses already sleeping two or three people have officially become "over-crowded." Walls of homes just disintegrated, disappearing, leaving rooves resting on the land, with no sign of what used to be. Neighbors are taking in people as they can, but most homes were already insufficiently sheltering their inhabitants. How many before they burst at the seams?
We are not a disaster relief organization, we run an after-school program. But before anything, we are here to help this community, and they are certainly in need now more than ever. This is
the debris came from inland upriver, and was washed out to sea by the flooding. The land here is very mountainous, and all rains drain into the same river, making it possible for the flash floods.
where things get tricky. People are now starving, but were they not starving five days ago before the rains? They were. Were they not cold during these winter nights? Yes, many were. It is difficult to wrap my mind around this. How can we say, yes, NOW you are suffering to the point where you deserve a blanket? Were they not always deserving?
But on my trip yesterday to visit some families around the community, I gained a little bit of clarity. People in need are now, in many cases, negotiating their very survival. Many who had little, now have nothing. And that's the bottom line. We do have a responsibility to help these people. We are helping a little bit everyday, but my heart and my mind tell me that's not enough. For now, it has to be, because resources are limited. I guess they say a little goes a long way, and this is surely one of those times…."
Since the storm we have been collecting information of those hurt by the storm, we have distributed water-purifying materials to help those who are without a clean water source, and are doing our best to relay the
Normally there is a huge sand bank spanning from one shore to the other and about 30 meters in depth that divides the river from the ocean. This was washed away by the storm.
information we collect to those who have the means and leverage to get the people what they need. Amidst all of this, we are working to continue the equally important work of providing quality afterschool programs for the children. And so, the work at Thanda continues.......
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