Ten days after cyclone, a destroyed African village waits

By Stephen Eisenhammer and Emma Rumney

By Stephen Eisenhammer and Emma Rumney

JOHN SEGREDO, Mozambique (Reuters) - The houses are gone, the food has run out, yet still no aid has come to the village of John Segredo - ten days after a devastating cyclone hit Mozambique.

"We're hungry," a crowd of more than fifty people shouted together, as Reuters journalists accessed the small, riverside village by helicopter on Sunday.

One of them, 23-year-old Juliana Costa, said as many as 20 people might have died in the vicinity, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the nearest town Nhamatanda.

The road to the village has been washed away.

"You are the first people to come here, no one has come. No one from the government," said Costa, in the poor farming community where inhabitants rushed for shelter in a school as winds blew sheet roofing off homes of mud and rough cement.

The plight of John Segredo highlights the challenges of the humanitarian response to Cyclone Idai that swept through Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, killing at least 656 people and leaving tens of thousands homeless.

The water covering vast tracts of land west of Beira has been receding, but the size of the disaster zone makes getting aid to the most needy difficult.

Resources are limited too.

Only 11 helicopters were available for the relief effort on Saturday from Beira, according to the United Nations. However, planes were flying into Beira airport with aid all Sunday.


Just outside the town of Dondo, about 30 kilometers inland from Beira, people have been going hungry since the cyclone.

Several small, rural communities only became accessible in the last few days by a bumpy dirt path lined with huts made from wooden sticks, sheet metal and stones or clay.

At the side of the road, over 100 people gathered to receive a first aid distribution - but not from the government or aid workers. Instead, a local petrol company came with a truck full of oil, sugar, rice and biscuits.

Castro Alberta, a 35-year-old pastor, saw both his home and church destroyed in the storm. His church was his livelihood, and there are no plans to rebuild it.

While he has started selling charcoal in Dondo to try and feed his wife and five children, some days they have had nothing. "I could lose my family," he said, concerned about lack of food though relieved some basic provisions had arrived.

The crowd were mostly subsistence farmers, who said they had lost their homes, crops and animals, and were eating whatever plants they could find growing in the wild.

Representatives of the company and police tried to keep order as the crowd waited. At one point, a police officer fired a blank into the air to move the enclosing group back.

Back in John Segredo, Costa said the community was hoping for the government to come. "People here died in the trees because there was no support. Even today there are dead bodies in the trees, because there's no help," she said.

"We are waiting."

(Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)