Man loses 12 relatives in swept away village

Man loses 12 relatives in swept away village


A school bag trapped in the mud lies next to a girl’s shoe. Notebooks in the bag are signed Mishel Mtambalika, Standard 6 at Chanza Primary School in Chiradzulu District.

When people nearby are asked the whereabouts of Mishel, we are greeted with a dead silence. Then one of her classmates gathers courage despite having her grief rekindled.

“She is dead. We found her body yesterday [last Wednesday]. An hour later she was buried,” the girl responded.

There was neither dignified burial nor time to mourn her. It was too much to swallow how Tropical Storm Freddy ended the precious life and dream of Mishel.

But on Monday March 13, Mishel had reported for classes, hoping to return to school the following day. Little did she know that mudslides from Chilimankhwanje Hill would squeeze life out of her precious body and that of others to deepen the sorrow of survivors.

In a blink of the eye, an entire village of Ntauchira was washed away. How it happened, nobody can understand.

According to survivors, it all happened when around 4am people were asleep. Rocks, mudslides and water came down the hill, smashing houses and sweeping away livestock, farms, and a market in the process.

Zabe with Henry’s jacket

The once evergreen area, which had about 100 houses, has now turned into large ground of mud and rocks.

Arriving at the place, you are greeted with sad faces. Every person is looking for relatives. When this journalist arrived, a man approached him, thinking he was a government officer who had brought a solution.

Bwana ndithandizeni abale anga sakuoneka [Please help me find my relatives],” he begged.

Fifty-nine-year-old Sikwala Zabe has lost all his 12 relatives. He was born in Ntauchira Village but left last year for his wife’s home, a neighbouring village.

“I left all my relatives here. These are my four sisters and their families. I am the only male in my family. In total, I had 12 direct relatives,” he said.

Zabe said he heard about the sad news on Tuesday around 8am. “I rushed to see my relatives. Since I came, I never found any.

“I was devastated to find only a playing ground. All my relatives cannot be traced. I have been here since that day but can’t find any.”

He is weak and cannot dig in the mud in search of his relations. “I am waiting for government to help me search for my relatives.”

Moments after this journalist left, he heard Zabe screaming. “Ah! Henry, Henry uli kuti iwe? Mayi ako ali kuti…. [Ah Henry, Henry, where are you? Where is your mother?]”

He screamed while holding a jacket he had found in the mud.

“This jacket belonged to Henry. I do not know where he is. God why have you left me alone?” he cried.

In this village, relatives are searching and rescuing survivors as well as retrieving.

A Malawi Defence Force (MDF) team that came left the day we arrived. Their vehicles were stuck before reaching the place.

Nobody sent by government was on the ground on Thursday. Communities are using hoes, a tedious process which delays recovery of dead bodies.

People hoped President Lazarus Chakwera would visit them on Thursday when he stopped at Nguludi Mission Hospital on his way to Mulanje.

A 12 –year-old girl joined the search team to look for her grandmother. Her mother was admitted to a hospital but the grandmother was not that fortunate.

“I saw her, she wanted to climb the same tree, but failed and was washed away,” she narrated.

“Water washed my mother and grandmother. I urged them to climb a nearby mango tree but they could not. Mother was rescued by some men but grandmother was washed away. I saw her covered with mud,” she said.

With her mother in the hospital, her father not around, a well-wisher has volunteered to looj after her until the mother is discharged.

Traditional Authority Likoswe says it will take time to reconcile the loss. “I have never seen this before. I cannot  ask since God has accepted this to happen,” he said.

Chiradzulu district disaster risk management officer Charity Machika on Friday said she will follow up to find out why government’s rescue team is not on the ground.

“What I know is that MDF officials were on the ground but they have left. I need to follow up,” she said.

Machika confirmed the death of 12 people as of Friday morning, but she is yet to find out the number of people injured and households displaced.

Both Machika and Likoswe do not know the population of the village. But a citizen we met at the scene said the village had about 100 houses.

No hope everywhere

In Thyolo District, Lista Joswa of Loti Village in Traditional Authority Nchiramwera is grieving for her child who drowned in a collapsed pit latrine on Monday morning.

She says she went to sell bananas at Thyolo Boma. Upon return, she was told that the child was at her grandmother’s house.

Joswa assumed that the 15-year-old epileptic girl spent the night at her grandmother’s house only to get the shock of her life when she found her child floating in an abandoned pit latrine.

“She was dead. It was only the head that was visible. I suspect she accidentally fell into the toilet while looking for shelter during the rain,” she said amidst sobs.

Joswa said her house was damaged by a tree that fell on it as Freddy pounded the Southern Region.

The single mother of five said food is scarce at the camp.

“From Monday, [three days since our arrival at the camp] we have only eaten a proper meal once,” said Joswa.

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 Man loses 12 relatives in swept away village first appeared on The Nation Online.





Generated by Feedzy