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Daviz Simango, mayor of Beira, Mozambique
“As I talk to you, I am working on the ground,” mayor of Beira Daviz Simango assures. He reports on the difficulties in assisting affected citizens and says he is fighting to get more support.
After a few days without telecommunications because of Cyclone Idai, which fell upon the centre of Mozambique on Thursday (14.03.), it is finally possible to speak to people in the region. Mozambicans are celebrate the end of the enforced silence because now they can finally find out about the situation and families in the affected areas. For DW Africa, this restoration of communications facilitated a conversation with Mayor Daviz Simango of Beira, the worst affected municipality.
DW Africa: Can you describe the situation in the city of Beira after Cyclone Idai?
Daviz Simango (DS): The cyclone brought extremely strong winds that destroyed our city. Public and private infrastructure – schools, hospitals and houses were destroyed. The economic sector was greatly affected, with warehouses, shops and stalls were destroyed. We were out of touch, with very serious water shortages, and now we are facing price speculation by some sellers.
Beira is in the dark – it has become a ghost city at night. The situation is extremely serious. We lack food for the people, and we are doing everything we can to open the roads again. Fallen trees are blocking almost all the streets, and power poles have fallen too, so it is a huge challenge to recover and return to normality.
DW Africa: And what does the population need right now?
DS: Food and roofing material, most obviously. The populations is homeless and need zinc sheeting. Also water, clothing – much of it is either wet or gone – those are the big challenges. Then we have a lot of people, especially elderly people and orphaned children, who have no homes and nowhere to sleep.
DW Africa: Since the cyclone struck Beira, have you, as mayor of the city, taken action to support city residents and restore basic infrastructure?
DS: Yes, it is necessary to recover basic infrastructures, but this is an extraordinary challenge. There must be resources, and of course, with the municipality’s budget, this is practically impossible. Just to get an idea, the municipal council building itself has suffered damage, along with other public infrastructure, including the mortuary. We will have to start from scratch.
DW Africa: And what kind of support is your municipality providing?
DS: The situation is critical and chaotic. The municipality must receive extraordinary support to address the situation. As I talk to you, I’m working on the ground. Our job is to stand with the people and try to solve these problems.
DW Africa: There have been people who have expected a bulletin or situation report in the past few days. Could this have happened under the conditions?
DS: We are in constant contact with the population, and we have already given all the instructions necessary to guarantee their safety.
DW Africa: There are several ongoing aid mobilisation campaigns in the country. Is your municipality coordinated with these campaigns?
DS: We will be launching some manifestos in the next few days. Tomorrow, I will meet with ambassadors, precisely to ask for support.
DW Africa: And in relation to local citizens campaigns, are in coordinating with them?
DS: The private sector in Beira is supporting us directly. I have had contact with representatives of the Indian embassy in Beira, and three Indian warships have arrived with goods, medicines, water and five nurses and two hundred other people precisely to offer people support.
DW Africa: Some outbreak of a disease like cholera is expected soon. Are the hospitals prepared to deal with this?
DS: The hospitals are not [prepared]: they have no electricity. Many of the diagnostic tests require electricity and are not being done now, because Beira Central Hospital – which is the main hospital and the regional hospital – at the moment has no power. There are many patients who are dying and there are other patients who are returning home exactly because diagnoses cannot be made without electricity.
DW Africa: After this cyclone, do you believe that the city of Beira will ever be the same Again?
DS: The city is destroyed, we have to start from scratch and we have to prepare for it. Cities have risen from the ashes after world wars in many countries, and Beira too has to rise from the ashes, because it really is destroyed.
DW Africa: A study done a few years ago predicts that the city of Beira will disappear by 2030. Was this catastrophe the first major blow in that sequence?
DS: This was a cyclone: no-one anticipated such a thing. We are talking about winds in the order of 240 kilometres per hour. Nothing resists winds of such speed.
DW Africa: Exceptionally, the Council of Ministers met in Beira yesterday (19-03). Were you invited to attend?
DS: No, I was not invited to attend. I am not a member of the government or the Council of Ministers. I could have collaborated and informed the Council of Ministers about the situation on the ground. If they wanted me to participate, they should have formally invited me, but this was not done.
DW Africa: Is there any coordination work between the central government and Beira municipal council?
DS: I have received a team from INGC (National Institute for Disaster Management), but we do not have any information, I hear that the European Union and Anadarko have made donations, but officially we have no information.
DW Africa: Is not there a combination of efforts?
DS: There is no joint effort.
DW Africa: Does your municipality have the structure to recover the city alone?
DS: No territory or country that goes through such a situation recovers alone, so let’s not talk about the municipality recovering alone – that is to hide the truth. We understand that there are pacts and agreements according to which all support flows into the INGC or the central government. Now, it is up to these institutions to share part of this supports with the population of Beira, which needs it.Source: Deutsche Welle