Our aerial survey 'opened the eyes of government officials and the media to the larger scope of this crisis.'
Read the day by day account of MAF's disaster response as events unfold.
Thursday 14 March 2019: Disaster strikes
Tropical Cyclone Idai makes landfall on the evening of 14 March Beira city in Mozambique’s Sofala province. Winds of 106 miles per hour batter the coastal city that’s home to 500,000 people, knocking down buildings, cutting off roads and triggering flooding. The area, which lies below sea level, is vulnerable to flooding and had been affected by heavy rains even before the storm struck, causing 66 deaths and displacing an estimated 17,000 people. It quickly becomes apparent that 90% of the city has been destroyed.
Friday 15 March – Day 1: MAF’s disaster response efforts begin
Survey flights are planned using a Cessna 208 Caravan from MAF’s Mozambique programme (MAF operates as ‘Ambassador Aviation’ in Mozambique from a base in Nampula) and key partners including Mercy Air, a Christian Relief organisation operating Helicopters in Mozambique. Rick Emenaker, the Manager heading up MAF’s Disaster Response reports that the worsening flooding is becoming a bigger concern than the damage caused by the storm.
Saturday 16 - Day 2: Survey flights
A survey flight is carried out and MAF is able to help Mercy Air and the Mozambique government disaster response management agency, INGC, (Instituto Nacional de Gestao de Calamidades) deliver two loads (1400 kg) of rice and flour.
Sunday 17 - Day 3: Co-ordinating a response as flood waters rise
‘Things are starting to move here in Beira,’ reports Rick Emenaker. ‘The first aircraft have started to land since the cyclone hit on Thursday night. There was a first cluster group meeting [of the different humanitarian organisations who will be responding and bringing aid] as different players are starting to arrive.
‘There is a lot of damage locally however, the bigger threat to life is from flooding. The entire area west along Pungwe River is overflown and the weather forecast is for another three feet of rain to fall in the next couple of days. One dam has failed and there are already a number of victims with the potential of 1000’s at risk in the area.’
Monday 18 - Day 4: Rooftops and trees
MAF conducted an aerial survey flight today with the INGC (Moz disaster response agency) and World Food Program along the road from Beira toward Chimoio and south to the Buzi River. The survey reveals significant damage to the roadway, with entire sections washed out by floodwater and bridges damaged or destroyed. The flight continued south into the Buzi River basin, an area where no information is yet known.
‘It was a heart-breaking flight,’ reports Rick Emenaker, ‘as we flew over many miles of flooded land. We saw people stranded on rooftops surrounded by miles kms of water. It was difficult to comprehend and think that many have perished. A number of villages were completely buried in the flood waters. The magnitude of this disaster is hard to comprehend, and we are glad we are able to be here to help. Please keep the people of Mozambique in prayer as they struggle in a difficult situation that has no short-term end in sight.’ Rain is projected for the next couple of days. Please pray this doesn’t complicate operations further.’
Tuesday 19 March – Day 5: Rising floodwaters and food drops
‘Today, we joined with Mercy Air in doing three flights into an area totally cut off from flooding along the Buzi River,’ writes Jill Holmes. ‘We were able to distribute about 1,500kg of high energy biscuits. Distribute means dropping boxes out of the helicopter, sometimes into the water near a small patch of land, onto the roof of a house, or into trees. The food distributed comes from the World Food Program.
‘MAF’s Caravan aircraft did another much-needed survey into the hard-hit Buzi River area. The aerial survey done yesterday has literally changed the whole direction of the response here in Mozambique. It showed the Government and aid organisations the people most affected and their critical needs.
‘We know there are large groups of people stranded between Beira and Chimoio who need supplies and food, but after our survey flight a direr situation was discovered along the Buzi River. People are stuck on rooftops surrounded by kilometres of water, with the waters still rising and more rain coming. It’s a heart-breaking situation. Entire villages are completely underwater and this morning’s survey showed some areas that were dry yesterday are submerged today.
‘Tomorrow, we’ve planned more flights with Mercy Air, with more food distribution and evacuations as needed. Another possible survey flight into a different area has been requested. We have also been asked to do a flight for search and rescue workers.’
Wednesday 20 March – Day 6: Aerial rescues and setting up camps
Today, MAF assists Mercy Air with food drop flights over flooded areas. 1,950kg of high energy biscuits are distributed to help sustain people until further rescue attempts can be made. In one small area, they located approximately 1,000 people in trees, on rooftops, and even termite mounds – all desperate for shelter and food.
Helicopters and boats are being dispatched to bring back internally displaced people as humanitarian organisations try to organise and set up camps. The challenge has been finding adequate dry land to accommodate the number of people who need to move into the camps.
Yesterday, MAF flew family tents and hygiene kits into Beira. Mercy Air helicopters, with assistance from MAF, transported the tents to a camp being constructed near Buzi town. The response is growing and becoming more organised as additional organisations arrive, including the South African military and the UN.
Thursday 21 March – Day 7: One week on
MAF flights continue to bring tents, hygiene kits, supplies and other items to internally displaced persons camps in Beira. MAF Disaster Response Team member Pilot Dave Holmes flew 2 flights with more than 110 family shelter kits and food.
Brad Ballin, another member of the Disaster Response team, continues to support Mercy Air helicopter food delivery flights. They complete 17 food drops (36 boxes of high energy biscuits) to various locations north of the N6 road as well as another drop of 40 boxes to the village of Grudja.
A further survey flight carries the General Secretary of the INGC (the Mozambique Government’s disaster response agency) to Buzi city for assessment. The helicopter also flew seven tents and buckets to the camp at Buzi and returned with a pregnant lady who needed a caesarean.
Friday 22 March – Day 8: Prayers and continuing need
News reports suggest that 15,000 people remain stranded by the floodwaters, needing rescue and aid. The likelihood that the water will rise further as the rain continues to fall leaves these communities at severe risk.
Our team on the ground reports that more international air organisations and larger NGOs are starting to join the response and are addressing the needs of displaced communities. It is vital that shortages of clean water, food and medical care are quickly addressed before diseases such as cholera, caused by contaminated floodwater, take hold.
MAF supporters across the world continue to pray and give generously, moved and motivated by the heart-breaking scenes shown in the media.
Sunday 24 March - Day 10: Rescues continue, recovery begins
News reports revised the death toll upwards to 446 with more than 1,500 injured.
The team continues to be busy conducting survey flights for the many NGOs and agencies that are now arriving in Beira to provide aid. Some of these are UNHAS, World Vision, International Humanitarian Partnership (IHP), Samaritan's Purse, World Food Program, and Red Cross. Jill Holmes writes, 'A week ago when we arrived in Beira there were only a dozen or so people. Today, there are hundreds involved in the response. At this morning's briefing meeting they announced that the UN has classified this response as a system-wide response, meaning it is their top priority crisis. We also learned that the EN6 road from Beira to Chimoio is now open so they will be focusing on moving aid by road and boat and will prioritize aircraft to areas where still unable to reach by road.'
Today Rick Emenaker accompanied Mercy Air on a flight and shared, 'There is a small camp set up at Matarrara farm on the north bank of the river, however people on the south ide of the river had been cut off. Farmers and businessmen from Chimoio (South Africans) that live in that area and folks connected with SAM ministries have been rescuing people and distributing aid. The farm lost 45 of their workers in the flooding. They have been using a boat to rescue people and deliver aid and today was the first day the boat was able to access the south side. One lady with a newborn baby had been stuck on the south. The farmers are anxious to get seed because they believe if they can plant within the next two weeks (still rainy season), they can still get a crop and prevent further food security issues in the future.'
Ambassador Aviation/MAF continues to transport food, as well as tents and ‘family kits.’ Our partner, Mercy Air, is doing a lot of food drops with their helicopter. The team wrote, ‘This morning (Monday) Mercy Air took some Samaritan's Purse (SP) folks on a flight and dropped them off at Guara Guara for a survey to set up a medical base. They came back and went out to do more food drops and then picked up the SP passengers to bring them back to Beira after they completed their evaluation on the ground. On their third flight, Brad (Ballin, of MAF) went out with them to do 27 food drops to pockets of people in the Tica area, dropping 40 boxes (400kg) of high energy biscuits.’
To date MAF has flown 31 flights, carrying 107 passengers. MAF has assisted Mercy Air with 22 flights and 67 passengers. A total of 13,198kg's of cargo including food has been flown and distributed.
MAF is continuing to bring relief to communities devastated by Cyclone Idai in Mozambique. Yesterday, MAF Disaster Response Manager Rick Emenaker shared an update on BBC Newsday. Tune in to listen to the interview which starts 28 minutes into the programme.
Two weeks after the cyclone hit, the need has changed to preventing the spread of waterborne diseases including cholera. MAF are helping medical teams access rural areas where there are people with medical needs.
We're facilitating other medical teams to get out to those areas,' Rick tells the Newsday presenter. 'And as more teams come in and roads open up, more of those medical teams and organisations are starting to get out there and provide the medical care that's needed.'
The scale of the response, Rick explains, has been stepped up by NGO's as the sheer size of the floods have become apparent. 'When we first flew over and saw it, we said, "Oh my goodness, this is a sea!" And it turned out to be approximately 15 miles by 80 miles wide of an area that is normally dry land, so you can imagine the enormous size of this. And we were quite shocked by it all.'
- Please continue to pray for the people displaced by this crisis, especially those still stranded in floodwater areas. Pray for those who have lost family members, homes and livelihoods, and who may be struggling to come to terms with the immediate trauma.
- Pray for safety for those responding in the air and on the ground, who are rescuing flood victims, delivering aid, equipping the camps and caring for people in need. Give thanks that help is continuing to arrive to address the overwhelming need.Cholera and other diseases are starting to be a concern. Please pray that the people in the area will be protected.
- Pray that people will be able to plant their crop again soon to prevent long-term food insecurity.
- Pray that people won't have to stay long in the IDP camps but will be able to return to their homes soon.
- Pray for the fortitude of our team, who, ten days into the response are beginning to tire.
- Finally, pray that people will experience God’s love through interacting with our Disaster Response Team