As the storm that was to become Cyclone Idai gathered force over the ocean east of Mozambique, the Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) team in the port city of Beira began preparing for the worst. Medications were stacked high on the shelves so they would not be destroyed by flood waters, and sand bags were placed around supply containers to keep them safe and dry. These measures were taken in the pharmacy, warehouse, offices, and staff living quarters just in case.
“We asked our Mozambican staff to take the same precautions at home—to stack their belongings high up on the shelves, protect the windows, and make plans to evacuate if needed. But none of us really had any idea what was coming,” recalls Gabriele Santi, MSF project coordinator in Beira.
Cyclone Idai swept through Beira and surrounding districts on March 14 and 15. High winds and heavy flooding killed at least 602 people in Mozambique, according to official figures, and left many more injured. In Beira alone—a city of half a million people—thousands of homes, schools, and health centers, as well as essential infrastructure like roads, were damaged or destroyed.