Beware The Idai of March
Updated: Feb 11
In March of 2019, the warm cerulean waters of the Indian Ocean that usually
soothe and beckon beachcombers turned into an angry tempest of destruction
on the east coast of southern Africa.
The warnings came too late for most, as Cyclone Idai pummelled through
Mozambique with nearly 200kph winds and proceeded its devastating and deliberate
march through the Chimanimani and Chipinge districts in the eastern highlands
of Zimbabwe, dumping over 30 inches of rain in a record amount of time.
Idai began its decimation in Malawi on March 15, 2019 and then veered back out
to sea where it recharged and gained strength and temerity for a second assault; the category 3 storm travelled ominously into the Mozambique Channel where it pounded the coast for days, hampering the efforts of any rescue operations. Having killed hundreds of Mozambicans and affected approximately 3 million people, Cyclone Idai then set its sights on eastern Zimbabwe, a part of the world that rarely sees natural disasters of this enormity. The carnage and ruination left
in Idai’s wake was a humanitarian crisis
of untold proportions, leaving the United Nations to classify the cyclone as “one of the deadliest storms on record in the southern hemisphere.”
"One of the deadliest storms on record in the Southern Hemisphere"
In the blinding rain and the swollen rivers of Chipinge and Chimanimani, thousands of terrified victims were clinging to tree branches and scrambling for rooftops, if they were lucky enough to have a roof left at all. As the waters rose, Zimbabweans watched helplessly as homes, roads, bridges, animals, crops and whole mountainsides crumbled under the deluge and cars and buses full of people were turned upside down. Driving winds and torrential rainfall hammered the area for tortuously slow hours and days, forever altering the landscape of eastern Zimbabwe. Whole villages have been erased from the map and the broken families continue to search for lost relatives buried under the rubble, debris and mammoth rocks big enough to fill a canyon.
"THIS WAS DEVASTATION ON A LEVEL NEVER SEEN BY ANY STORM IN ZIMBABWE"
Natural disasters of this magnitude create breeding grounds for deadly diseases, dangerous living conditions and horrific circumstances. But they also create heroes. The stories that have come out of the remote rescue executed by ACE Air and Ambulance are incredible accounts of a brave team in their determination to save as many lives as they possibly could. ACE had been commissioned from the beginning of the storm to assist with rescues in Tete and Beira, Mozambique, as they already had a helicopter in the area. Circumstances prevented the pilot from departing as the cyclone hit, and for three days he was stranded without any
communication. Eventually, ACE headquarters learned that the pilot was safe but that the Bell LongRanger helicopter had been destroyed. Fortunately, the global resources that ACE Air and Ambulance has at its
disposal allowed for a replacement Eurocopter AS350 helicopter to be brought in immediately, which was then fitted with full ALS HEMS equipment.