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Processing Cyclone Idai

I just returned home from Beira, Mozambique, after helping with the MAF response to Cyclone Idai. We showed up on the first day the Beira Airport reopened after being battered by the storm. We arrived on our Cessna Caravan that is normally based in Nampula, in the northern part of the country. The emergency response started out small, with the struggles in the city making coordination difficult. The city had no power, no cell phone service or internet. One of the first things we did was an aerial survey to take photographs and try to pinpoint the hardest-hit areas. Some of the leaders of the crisis response were on this initial survey flight, and it gave them an eye-opening perspective of how massive the flood areas were to the south of Beira along the Buzi River. From the air, some of the flooded areas were so vast it looked like the sea, and it became evident that roads were washed out, cutting off the city.

A photo taken during an aerial survey captures the severity of the flooding, and shows those who are awaiting rescue. Photo by MAF disaster response team member Rick Emenaker.

It was heartbreaking to fly over and see people trapped on their rooftops surrounded by floodwater, waving at us, and to know we could do nothing to help them in that moment. My husband Dave, who was flying the Caravan, recounted seeing a man all alone on a grass roof, with kilometers of water all around him, waving madly at the airplane. We shared his geographic coordinates and those of other stranded individuals with our partner, Mercy Air, but their helicopter could only rescue a few at a time.

When we returned to our hotel each night, where we were safe from the elements and could enjoy a hot meal, my mind was haunted by those spending the night on their roofs. One evening it was pouring rain and we got soaking wet running from the building to the car. Despite the heat and humidity, I shivered a little in my wet clothes. I couldn’t fathom what it must be like to spend the night out in the rain, hungry and without shelter, not knowing if help was going to come.

Staff unload the MAF Caravan and prep sling loads of tents for delivery by the Mercy Air helicopter. Photo by Jill Holmes.

Thankfully, as the days passed the waters began to recede and we were able to transport tents and shelter kits to Beira to be used by those who had lost their homes. We partnered with Mercy Air to help do food drops from their helicopter. Aid organizations arrived to deliver food and medical care. It was a chaotic mess and yet comforting to see so many people coming together to help.

Mission Aviation Fellowship charity aviation service and other aid groups meet for Cyclone Idai disaster response in Mozambique
MAF staff and other aid groups at a morning logistics meeting in Beira, Mozambique, for Cyclone Idai disaster relief. Photo by MAF.

It will no doubt be a long-term recovery, with all the crops and structures that have been destroyed. Please remember to continue to pray for, and support if you can, the people of Mozambique.

MAF aviation charity aerial assessment shows water subsided after massive flooding from Cyclone Idai in Mozambique
A followup aerial survey shows the same building (from the opposite direction) a little over a week later, after waters subsided. Photo by MAF.


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