'My God, this a disaster' – Thousands flock to Beira school to take refuge

2019-03-25 17:34

School bells in Mozambique's fourth largest city, Beira, usually start ringing at 07:00. 

On Monday, however, there was silence. 

Instead of pupils, Samora Machel Secondary School's hallways are filled with people looking for a safe and dry place to sleep. 

Amelia Fernando Maya was among those who quickly rushed to the school, hoping to secure a spot.

"I arrived here last week. I traveled all the way from Buzi," Maya told News24.

cyclone idaiDisplaced people are occupying Samora Machel secondary school in Beira in Mozambique. (Felix Dlangamandla, Netwerk24)

Buzi is a district in the south east fringes of Beira.

Extreme flooding

It is one of the worst affected areas because of its closeness to the Buzi River which experienced extreme flooding caused by Cyclone Idai.

"We've got two groups of people here. People from the surrounding area of which their houses were destroyed so we are accommodating them in the amphitheater. Then we've got a massive amount of people from Buzi – we are accommodating them in the gyms," teacher Saimon Laiti Militia told News24.

Militia has worked at the school for almost three decades, teaching mostly English. He is also the deputy principal.

cyclone idai

People seen outside classrooms at Samora Machel secondary school in Beira in Mozambique. (Felix Dlangamandla, Netwerk24)

WATCH: Mozambique cyclone leaves catastrophe in its wake

He estimates over 1 000 people have walked through the school's doors in the past week.

He says it is difficult to turn anyone away because they don't have anywhere to go.

"My God, this a disaster. We call this a catastrophe. This has never happened. Almost every house has been affected. Everyone suffered," Militia said. 

Solid walls

The school, which has become a popular place of refuge because of its solid walls, spacious classrooms and toilets, has been receiving food and water from the local government.

The learning institution is also central and easily accessible.

On Monday, several pupils arrived for school but had nowhere to go.

cyclone idai

Children are seen at Samora Machel secondary school in Beira in Mozambique. (Felix Dlangamandla, Netwerk24)

Many learners stood in groups in the front yard while others wandered around the hallways.

Mothers with children hoisted on their backs were seen dashing through the corridors carting water to wash clothes and dishes.

The school's quad has become an informal "town square", where a bonfire is set up to heat  pots of rice or boil water.

WATCH: Cyclone Idai aftermath food shortage in Mozambique

cyclone idai

Children playing at Samora Machel secondary school in Beira in Mozambique. (Felix Dlangamandla, Netwerk24)

Little children chase each other around, while mothers cradle their infants.

School staff frantically manoeuvre around their new guests, mopping floors and rearranging the desks.

Although the regular school schedule has been indefinitely paused, Militia hopes some classes can start on Tuesday.

He says grades 10 through to 12 need a place to prepare for upcoming exams to avoid falling behind.

cyclone idai

Displaced people are occupying Samora Machel secondary school in Beira in Mozambique. (Felix Dlangamandla, Netwerk24)

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Read more on:    mozambique  |  southern africa  |  cyclone idai
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