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37-year-old Hélder Fazenda, a Maths teacher, begs for space for two bags of food in one of the few artisanal vessels that take a chance against the flow of the River Buzi in Mozambique.
Cyclone Idai left him only with a t-shirt a superman’s ‘S’ to wear, but perhaps it fits on today’s mission: return from Beira with supplies for the family, trapped by waters in the Buzi village.
Something that would once have been trivial, getting supplies in Beira, has now become an adventure.
The small wooden vessel, rented by a group of people, leaves Praia Nova, almost in the centre of the city of Beira, towards the village on a “risky” journey due to weather conditions and was almost stopped by local maritime authorities.
Hélder Fazenda enters the mouth of the river, goes up and he looks ahead over the churning brown water to see if it won’t take too long to be back with his wife and eight-month-old son.
It takes him four hours to get there against the flow, twice as long as it took him to descend the river.
When he left them, he did not know what he going to find in Beira, what he could buy, or how to return to the village, but everything was better than the upside-down world that almost submerged them.
Like thousands of people, they were besieged for days, waiting for supplies.
“I had to risk” going to Beira. “I have to take this food to my family,” Fazenda said, adding that in addition to beans and rice, the bags contain milk for his child.
“I was in an accommodation centre [in Buzi], but no one is helping us. There are no doctors there. The roads are blocked and there is no communication, people are bitten by snakes and there is no way for them to receive assistance,” Fazenda said.
The waters are going down but almost every district of Buzi remains submerged, a week after the cyclone passed.
Near the shore, the bodies of decomposing animals tangled up amongst the trees, leave some passengers sick.
At the destination, dozens of people already join and wait on a small bridge pier, ready to risk a trip to Beira, leaving the rest of the family behind.
No charity: 200 meticais per trip
The trip is not an act of charity: anyone who wants to go looking for supplies has some small motor vessels that charge 300 meticais, the population complaints.
Helga Tânia, another teacher, told Lusa that she spent two days on the roof of her home waiting for help that never arrived.
Together with her two brothers she faced the water and travelled nearly 12km to the pier but, to her frustration, the local vessels that make the trip demanded payment.
“We have no money,” Tânia said, who lost everything and, even if she wanted to, could not go looking for supplies in the city.
As the waters go down, people scattered across the areas in Buzi drink and wash in the river water.
Mozambican activist from the Red Cross, Fernando Alberto, said the situation was chaotic.
“The population of Buzi is not well,” he said, pointing out that water purification was a priority.
Superman Hélder Fazenda is already reunited with his family, but the next load of supplies is unknown like almost everything the future holds.