By Oliver Matthews
Chimanimani, Zimbabwe, Mar 14 (efe-epa).- One year on from a devastating cyclone that killed more than 300 Zimbabweans and displaced thousands of others, the town of Chimanimani still bears deep scars.
Located in the mountainous eastern highlands of the country, Chimanimani took a direct hit from Cyclone Idai a day after it swept through central Mozambique.
“The stones and mud came from the mountains and destroyed all of the houses,” recalls Burden Makururu, sitting in the ruins of what was once the town’s most densely-populated suburb of Ngangu.
Makururu, who makes a living as a welder in the town, survived because he was staying in a different house to the rest of his family on the night of 14 March 2019.
“My mother, two sisters, my uncle and stepfather, all of them died there,” Makururu told EFE, pointing to a place now covered with huge boulders.
“My stepfather was found 200 metres (further down the hillside) after almost three days,” he added.
He said he was waiting to be relocated to an area near Wengezi, around 200 kilometres from Chimanimani, where the government plans to build new houses for some of the displaced.
“I have no option. Here there is no suitable area for houses to be reconstructed.”
The main tarred road leading to the town, which was severely damaged and impassable for nearly a year, has finally been reopened.
Bridges have been rebuilt, and residents no longer have to take an hour-long detour to reach the town along a road, sometimes dusty, sometimes treacherously muddy.
Many of the rocks that were dislodged from the mountainsides on the night of the cyclone and blocked the road are too huge to have been moved more than a few metres to the road verges.
They are a permanent and grim reminder of what befell this town a year ago.
In some areas, there are deep gullies where none existed before.
Amid this altered landscape, residents are trying to piece together their shattered lives, both for themselves and their children.
EFE met 35-year-old Kelvin Charamba sitting with his five-month-old daughter Faith at a tented camp for Chimanimani’s displaced townspeople.
Charamba said he hopes the government will provide survivors with money to start businesses “so that we can honour our children”.
His wife was pregnant with Faith during the cyclone.
The baby has so far known no other home than the blue and white canvas tents of Garikai Camp, erected by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
“My house was taken by Cyclone Idai, totally destroyed. We are waiting for the government to find a safe place to stay,” Charamba said.