The impact of cyclone Freddy

1 May 2023

As I write this blog, I am on my way home from Malawi. Over three weeks I have been in Malawi. It was not long after cyclone Freddy had caused much suffering, grief, and devastation. Deciding to go to Kwanjana in the first week of my stay, I was confronted with the effects of the floods. Below I describe how that went:

Last Tuesday, 11 April, Felix and I tried to go to Kwanjana. Unfortunately, we failed due to heavy rains. With my own eyes, I saw and experienced how dangerous it is to go to Kwanjana in rainy weather after Freddy destroyed a lot. Driving the car down the rather steep slope onto the bridge requires steering skills and caution when it is slippery. The car only just fits on the bridge, so if you slide 20 cm to the left or right, you come to a stop on or against a pillar of the bridge. Fortunately, that went well this time. On the other side of the bridge, we were soon in a skid and didn't make it very far to the top. That meant only one option and that was to reverse back onto the bridge. On slippery ground, this is even more dangerous than going forward on it. But with caution, that also went well. Then at a brisk speed over the bridge and through the pits and over the bumps trying to get to the top. Unfortunately, that didn't work either and halfway up the slope we couldn't get any further. So again, only one option and that is backwards, with the result that we came to a stop in a deep pit with the bottom of the car on the ground. In the pouring rain, we drained the water a bit and used a shovel to loosen some stones to put them behind the wheels, creating a bit more grip. Yes, that worked after a while. So backwards and with gait into a side path to turn and then back home. So, over the bridge again and tried to get to the top on the other side. Unfortunately, we got stuck there too. Then there was only one option, and that was to head back towards the bridge and try again to get to the top at speed. That too failed. Meanwhile, as if out of nowhere, six men came to help. They sprinkled some sand on the 'road' to get some more grip. Eventually we succeeded and, without having been in Kwanjana, drove back home.

It is just one of the effects of the cyclone. When we headed towards Kwanjana again over a week later, with dry weather, we succeeded. We visited several families whose houses had completely or partially collapsed. We were impressed by the resilience of the people. For much of what was destroyed has already been rebuilt. Unfortunately, cement is far too expensive, so the houses are being rebuilt or repaired with bricks 'bricked' with mud. This may also mean renewed damage and collapsing walls if there is another prolonged rain. How happy and blessed we are that 'our' buildings and the 40 houses built by For a Change have not suffered any significant damage. This gives courage to continue with this when sufficient funds are again available. With the knowledge that 640 houses in Kwanjana have now suffered a lot of damage and the bridge to Kwanjana also needs to be repaired to make Kwanjana easily and safely accessible, we hope that enough money will be donated to take up the reconstruction work again.