When his pregnant mother sent him to get some flour and medication at a cousin’s house, little did 9-year-old Obright Chinomba know that it was his salvation from the ravaging waters that washed away his parents and a younger brother.
His father, a builder, met his fate because his boss had given him the day off due to the rains.
The boy’s cousin, Maxwell Lloyd of Chimwaza Village T/A Machinjiri in Blantyre narrates with teary eyes how the family was swept away on Monday.
“He came to get some flour. Seeing that the rains were heavy, I decided to escort him. On the way, we met a girl who told us that the house was razed. We have been going to Queens [Central Hospital] to check but they are still missing,” he said.
Obright’s picture went viral on Friday, sparking debate with some saying they would take him, while others insist that procedures have to be followed.
“We have been getting calls from people saying they want to take him. We are saying the issue is being pursued by social welfare workers,” he said.
South Lunzu ward councillor Jonas Kamwendo said discussions were in progress with the social welfare to take the Standard Three pupil at South Lunzu Primary School to a safe house.
Survivors get water from a Blantyre Water Board bowser
Meanwhile, Cyclone Freddy survivors remain depressed, terror-stricken, stressful and confused in evacuation camps dotted across the Southern Region.
Nation on Sunday visited some selected camps on Thursday and Friday where survivors narrated chilling experiences.
At Naotcha Primary School evacuation camp in Blantyre, Jonathan Namainja is still traumatised having lost his wife and two children.
Sobbing throughout the interview, he cannot understand why he faced the ordeal.
“We were all swept away by the floods and they did not make it. Their bodies were found by community members who also rescued me,” he said.
Namainga said he could not stand it when their caskets were lowered into their graves
“Sometimes I have this sense that it is just a bad dream and they will come back to life,” he said.
Namainja’s experience resonated with that of Maureen Kantande who lost a son.
His death pained her greatly as it came a month after separating from her husband of nine years.
“I cannot believe that my son is gone; gone for good. Is it a joke or what? He was my hope and my strength after separating from his father. Honesty, I feel empty and hopeless,” she said.
Kantande and her son were swept by mudslides. Luckily, she got stuck between rocks, but her son’s body was found by the Malawi Defence Force rescue team.
At the camp, our attention was also drawn to a 10-year-old boy with autism whose parents are missing. No relation has been identified.
The boy, known as Paul, seemed uncomfortable throughout our stay at the camp largely due to his condition.
The United Nations Children’s Fund estimates that over 90 000 children have been affected by the cyclone and are in camps spread across the Southern Region.
Mary Denga, who was also at the camp, was lucky to have escaped with her eight-year-old son.
When the disaster struck, she said her husband had gone to a hawker to buy candles.
They separated only to reunite at the camp.
At Manja Primary School evacuation camp, Jennifer Manda also narrated a sad story.
“On Tuesday morning, I was coming from the market to buy relish when I saw people running and shouting for help. I was confused and did not know what was going on.
“Then I saw mud flowing from the mountain with speed. I threw down the vegetables I was carrying and run for my life,” she said.
At Lunzu Catholic Primary School evacuation camp in Traditional Authority Kapeni in Blantyre, Joyce Bwanali from Mpira Village recalled her traumatic experience of Monday evening when her one bedroom house collapsed due to heavy rains.
She explained: “The rains were so devastating and they blew off the roof of my house. At that time, almost everyone was shouting for help. I was in the house, but escaped without any injuries.”
Bwanali said she fled the house with her husband without taking anything.
She was still in clothes she was wore when the cyclone hit. But this is the least of her worries.
She is three-month pregnant and does not know when she will leave the camp.
Her husband is a minibus tout and regardless of the situation on this day he had gone to the trading centre to scratch for a living.
Tropical Cyclone Freddy which arrived in the country on March 3 has killed 438 people, injured 796 and 282 are reported missing while 189 579 have been displaced as of last Friday
The post Chilling experiences from cyclone survivors first appeared on The Nation Online.