Mozambican families hunt for loved ones separated by cyclone

  • Veronica Fatia carries her 2-year-old daughter as they travel in a wooden boat to Buzi district, 200 kilometers (120 miles) outside Beira, Mozambique, on Saturday, March 23, 2019. They left the cyclone-shattered city of Beira for the town of Buzi, which for a week people had been fleeing to with little but their clothes.

    Veronica Fatia carries her 2-year-old daughter as they travel in a wooden boat to Buzi district, 200 kilometers (120 miles) outside Beira, Mozambique, on Saturday, March 23, 2019. They left the cyclone-shattered city of Beira for the town of Buzi, which for a week people had been fleeing to with little but their clothes. Associated Press

  • Displaced families arrive after being rescued by boat from a flooded area of Buzi district, 200 kilometers (120 miles) outside Beira, Mozambique, on Saturday, March 23, 2019.  A second week has begun of efforts to find and help tens of thousands of people after Cyclone Idai devastated a large swath of Mozambique.

    Displaced families arrive after being rescued by boat from a flooded area of Buzi district, 200 kilometers (120 miles) outside Beira, Mozambique, on Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun of efforts to find and help tens of thousands of people after Cyclone Idai devastated a large swath of Mozambique. Associated Press

  • A displaced young boy sleeps on the floor at a school in Buzi district, 200 kilometers (120 miles) outside Beira, Mozambique, on Saturday, March 23, 2019. People left the cyclone-shattered city of Beira for the town of Buzi, which for a week people had been fleeing to with little but their clothes.

    A displaced young boy sleeps on the floor at a school in Buzi district, 200 kilometers (120 miles) outside Beira, Mozambique, on Saturday, March 23, 2019. People left the cyclone-shattered city of Beira for the town of Buzi, which for a week people had been fleeing to with little but their clothes. Associated Press

  • A displaced family arrives after being rescued by a boat from a flooded area of Buzi district, 200 kilometers (120 miles) outside Beira, Mozambique, on Saturday, March 23, 2019.  A second week has begun of efforts to find and help tens of thousands of people after Cyclone Idai devastated a large swath of Mozambique.

    A displaced family arrives after being rescued by a boat from a flooded area of Buzi district, 200 kilometers (120 miles) outside Beira, Mozambique, on Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun of efforts to find and help tens of thousands of people after Cyclone Idai devastated a large swath of Mozambique. Associated Press

  • A young boy walks through a muddy walkway in Buzi district, 200 kilometers (120 miles) outside Beira, Mozambique, on Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun with efforts to find and help some tens of thousands of people in devastated parts of southern Africa, with some hundreds dead and an unknown number of people still missing.

    A young boy walks through a muddy walkway in Buzi district, 200 kilometers (120 miles) outside Beira, Mozambique, on Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun with efforts to find and help some tens of thousands of people in devastated parts of southern Africa, with some hundreds dead and an unknown number of people still missing. Associated Press

  • A woman walks along a flooded road in Buzi district, 200km outside Beira, Mozambique, Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun with efforts to find and help some tens of thousands of people in devastated parts of southern Africa, with some hundreds dead and an unknown number of people still missing.

    A woman walks along a flooded road in Buzi district, 200km outside Beira, Mozambique, Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun with efforts to find and help some tens of thousands of people in devastated parts of southern Africa, with some hundreds dead and an unknown number of people still missing. Associated Press

  • A group of men watch the arrival of a boat carrying displaced families rescued from a flooded area of Buzi district, 200 kilometers (120 miles) outside Beira, Mozambique, on Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun with efforts to find and help some tens of thousands of people in devastated parts of southern Africa, with some hundreds dead and an unknown number of people still missing.

    A group of men watch the arrival of a boat carrying displaced families rescued from a flooded area of Buzi district, 200 kilometers (120 miles) outside Beira, Mozambique, on Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun with efforts to find and help some tens of thousands of people in devastated parts of southern Africa, with some hundreds dead and an unknown number of people still missing. Associated Press

  • A young girl is carried off the boat after being rescued from a flooded area of Buzi district, 200km outside Beira, Mozambique, Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun with efforts to find and help some tens of thousands of people in devastated parts of southern Africa, with some hundreds dead and an unknown number of people still missing.

    A young girl is carried off the boat after being rescued from a flooded area of Buzi district, 200km outside Beira, Mozambique, Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun with efforts to find and help some tens of thousands of people in devastated parts of southern Africa, with some hundreds dead and an unknown number of people still missing. Associated Press

  • A young girl is carried off the boat after being rescued from a flooded area of Buzi district, 200km outside Beira, Mozambique, Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun with efforts to find and help some tens of thousands of people in devastated parts of southern Africa, with some hundreds dead and an unknown number of people still missing.

    A young girl is carried off the boat after being rescued from a flooded area of Buzi district, 200km outside Beira, Mozambique, Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun with efforts to find and help some tens of thousands of people in devastated parts of southern Africa, with some hundreds dead and an unknown number of people still missing. Associated Press

  • Relatives and friends watch as the boat arrives from Buzi disembark from a boat after being rescued from a flooded area of Buzi district, 200km outside Beira, Mozambique, Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun with efforts to find and help some tens of thousands of people in devastated parts of southern Africa, with some hundreds dead and an unknown number of people still missing.

    Relatives and friends watch as the boat arrives from Buzi disembark from a boat after being rescued from a flooded area of Buzi district, 200km outside Beira, Mozambique, Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun with efforts to find and help some tens of thousands of people in devastated parts of southern Africa, with some hundreds dead and an unknown number of people still missing. Associated Press

  • A man holding his child watches a boat carrying displaced familie arrive after being rescued from a flooded area of Buzi district, 200km outside Beira, Mozambique, Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun with efforts to find and help some tens of thousands of people in devastated parts of southern Africa, with some hundreds dead and an unknown number of people still missing.

    A man holding his child watches a boat carrying displaced familie arrive after being rescued from a flooded area of Buzi district, 200km outside Beira, Mozambique, Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun with efforts to find and help some tens of thousands of people in devastated parts of southern Africa, with some hundreds dead and an unknown number of people still missing. Associated Press

  • Two men rescue an animal using a boat in Buzi district, 200km outside Beira, Mozambique, Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun with efforts to find and help some tens of thousands of people in devastated parts of southern Africa, with some hundreds dead and an unknown number of people still missing.

    Two men rescue an animal using a boat in Buzi district, 200km outside Beira, Mozambique, Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun with efforts to find and help some tens of thousands of people in devastated parts of southern Africa, with some hundreds dead and an unknown number of people still missing. Associated Press

  • An elderly woman is assisted disembark from a boat after being rescued from a flooded area of Buzi district, 200km outside Beira, Mozambique, Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun with efforts to find and help some tens of thousands of people in devastated parts of southern Africa, with some hundreds dead and an unknown number of people still missing.

    An elderly woman is assisted disembark from a boat after being rescued from a flooded area of Buzi district, 200km outside Beira, Mozambique, Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun with efforts to find and help some tens of thousands of people in devastated parts of southern Africa, with some hundreds dead and an unknown number of people still missing. Associated Press

  • A man docks a boat carrying displaced families after being rescued from a flooded area of Buzi district, 200km outside Beira, Mozambique, Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun with efforts to find and help some tens of thousands of people in devastated parts of southern Africa, with some hundreds dead and an unknown number of people still missing.

    A man docks a boat carrying displaced families after being rescued from a flooded area of Buzi district, 200km outside Beira, Mozambique, Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun with efforts to find and help some tens of thousands of people in devastated parts of southern Africa, with some hundreds dead and an unknown number of people still missing. Associated Press

  • Children wait as their parents disembark from a boat after being rescued from a flooded area of Buzi district, 200 kilometers (120 miles) outside Beira, Mozambique, on Saturday, March 23, 2019.  A second week has begun of efforts to find and help tens of thousands of people after Cyclone Idai devastated a large swath of Mozambique.

    Children wait as their parents disembark from a boat after being rescued from a flooded area of Buzi district, 200 kilometers (120 miles) outside Beira, Mozambique, on Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun of efforts to find and help tens of thousands of people after Cyclone Idai devastated a large swath of Mozambique. Associated Press

  • A young boy makes fire as he plays in Buzi district, 200 kilometers (120 miles) outside Beira, Mozambique, on Saturday, March 23, 2019.  A second week has begun of efforts to find and help tens of thousands of people after Cyclone Idai devastated a large swath of Mozambique.

    A young boy makes fire as he plays in Buzi district, 200 kilometers (120 miles) outside Beira, Mozambique, on Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun of efforts to find and help tens of thousands of people after Cyclone Idai devastated a large swath of Mozambique. Associated Press

  • A fisherman navigates a wooden boat to Buzi district, 200 kilometers (120 miles) outside Beira, Mozambique, Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun with efforts to find and help some tens of thousands of people in devastated parts of southern Africa, with some hundreds dead and an unknown number of people still missing.

    A fisherman navigates a wooden boat to Buzi district, 200 kilometers (120 miles) outside Beira, Mozambique, Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun with efforts to find and help some tens of thousands of people in devastated parts of southern Africa, with some hundreds dead and an unknown number of people still missing. Associated Press

  • Children stand in-front of a business building in Buzi district, 200 kilometers (120 miles) outside Beira, Mozambique, Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun with efforts to find and help some tens of thousands of people in devastated parts of southern Africa, with some hundreds dead and an unknown number of people still missing.

    Children stand in-front of a business building in Buzi district, 200 kilometers (120 miles) outside Beira, Mozambique, Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun with efforts to find and help some tens of thousands of people in devastated parts of southern Africa, with some hundreds dead and an unknown number of people still missing. Associated Press

  • Displaced families set up their bedding on top of the roof in Buzi district, 200 kilometers (120 miles) outside Beira, Mozambique, on Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun with efforts to find and help some tens of thousands of people in devastated parts of southern Africa, with some hundreds dead and an unknown number of people still missing.

    Displaced families set up their bedding on top of the roof in Buzi district, 200 kilometers (120 miles) outside Beira, Mozambique, on Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun with efforts to find and help some tens of thousands of people in devastated parts of southern Africa, with some hundreds dead and an unknown number of people still missing. Associated Press

  • Passengers of a wooden boat travel to Buzi district, 200 kilometers (120 miles) outside Beira, Mozambique, on Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun with efforts to find and help some tens of thousands of people in devastated parts of southern Africa, with some hundreds dead and an unknown number of people still missing.

    Passengers of a wooden boat travel to Buzi district, 200 kilometers (120 miles) outside Beira, Mozambique, on Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun with efforts to find and help some tens of thousands of people in devastated parts of southern Africa, with some hundreds dead and an unknown number of people still missing. Associated Press

  • Displaced families rest inside a damaged classroom in Buzi district, 200 kilometers (120 miles) outside Beira, Mozambique, on Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun with efforts to find and help some tens of thousands of people in devastated parts of southern Africa, with some hundreds dead and an unknown number of people still missing.

    Displaced families rest inside a damaged classroom in Buzi district, 200 kilometers (120 miles) outside Beira, Mozambique, on Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun with efforts to find and help some tens of thousands of people in devastated parts of southern Africa, with some hundreds dead and an unknown number of people still missing. Associated Press

  • Relatives and friends watch as a boat arrives with people rescued from flooded areas to Buzi district, 200 kilometers (120 miles) outside Beira, Mozambique, on Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun with efforts to find and help some tens of thousands of people in devastated parts of southern Africa, with some hundreds dead and an unknown number of people still missing.

    Relatives and friends watch as a boat arrives with people rescued from flooded areas to Buzi district, 200 kilometers (120 miles) outside Beira, Mozambique, on Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun with efforts to find and help some tens of thousands of people in devastated parts of southern Africa, with some hundreds dead and an unknown number of people still missing. Associated Press

  • A young boy sits outside their flooded house in Buzi district, 200 kilometers (120 miles) outside Beira, Mozambique, on Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun with efforts to find and help some tens of thousands of people in devastated parts of southern Africa, with some hundreds dead and an unknown number of people still missing.

    A young boy sits outside their flooded house in Buzi district, 200 kilometers (120 miles) outside Beira, Mozambique, on Saturday, March 23, 2019. A second week has begun with efforts to find and help some tens of thousands of people in devastated parts of southern Africa, with some hundreds dead and an unknown number of people still missing. Associated Press

 
 

BUZI, Mozambique -- The young mother huddled on a wooden boat clutching her 2-year-old daughter, headed for the unknown: The flooded town of Buzi, which thousands have fled with little but the clothes on their backs.

Fishermen's boats have been ferrying out Buzi's displaced, sometimes scores of people crammed into a single vessel. But Veronica Fatia was going against the tide, up waters that only recently carried corpses to the sea. She was looking for her mother, hoping she was still alive.

Ten days after the fierce rains and winds roared in, the death toll stood at more than 750 in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi - a toll that was certain to rise. Thousands of families swept apart by the storm were now seeking to reunite.

After a three-hour boat journey Fatia stepped carefully out of the boat and walked into the remains of Buzi, a once bustling riverside city of 200,000 now reduced to homelessness and despair.

She passed the shuttered Jesus Saves Bank and a nearby three-story building where residents clustered on the rooftop in search of a signal for their cellphones. She passed people living in the open along the sandy main road. Some were cooking, others building crude shelters. A young boy read a textbook. Her mother might be at the school, Fatia thought.

A cry went up as she approached the building and people came running.

"Mama!" she shouted as she caught sight of her mother. They embraced on a concrete walkway now filled with cooking fires and small children, one nodding off beside a pile of warm ashes.

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"My home is gone, but I'm still happy because I can see my family," Fatia said.

Her mother, Maria Antonio, said she last saw her daughter two days before the storm. "I didn't know anything about her," she said. "I'm very happy to see her."

But the fate of her other daughter, in Quelimane further north, remains unknown.

It is a common heartbreak for thousands of families in central Mozambique, who have no way to learn about missing loved ones as destroyed communications networks struggle to return. People are desperately searching for family members separated by the flooding, destruction and death. Many will not be as lucky as Fatia.

The fishing boats between Buzi and the cyclone-shattered port city of Beira about 125 miles (200 kilometers) away are now a lifeline carrying survivors and essential supplies, braving bursts of rain, rolling waves and the ever-pervasive stench of death. Near Buzi, a dog's carcass hung from the branches of a tree.

Cut off from the world, people can easily panic. One member of the Mozambican Red Cross, Assane Paul, tried to calm a knot of people in Buzi who had heard a rumor that another cyclone was on the way.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Others tried to adapt however they could, from the Bible reader on the rooftop who blamed the cyclone on people's sins to the man walking down the road in soaking wet trousers. They were the only clothes he had, he explained. It was very much wash and wear.

Many people were still on the move. Dozens waited at Buzi's small pier for the fishermen's boats to pull up, bags of belongings at their feet and concern on their faces. Others simply watched for news.

At the other end of the journey, the beach in Beira, children and barefoot women were carried off a fishing boat and gathered together by aid workers in the rain. Some looked lost. Few carried much. One small girl stood alone, hugging herself, her eyes wide and pleading.

"I hid in the mosque," said 12-year-old Ramadan Gulam. "I was there for a week." He had come from Buzi with nothing but a bag of clothes and his brothers. "My father said to go because the floods would come again. ... I don't know what to do now."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Christina Machado came with her two children and a bandage on her ankle. It was cut by a tin roof during the cyclone, she said. It was treated just yesterday.

"I'm looking for my husband," she said. He had been working in Beira for two months. She didn't know where she would be taken next.

Francisco Mambonda spent about a week on a rooftop with nothing to eat. He and his wife and sons drank muddy water to survive.

Barefoot, shivering and in tattered shorts, he added another plea to the growing chorus: "I don't know what to do now."

Emergency responders still have some hope.

As night fell and one wooden boat from Buzi approached the flickering, generator-lit Beira skyline, another passed in the dusk. It carried soldiers to their duties. Some raised their guns and cheered.

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