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Flood victims in Southern Africa receive aid

[SLIDESHOW=39566,39567,39568,39569]JOHANNESBURG (BP) — Severe rains have hammered Madagascar, Mozambique and Malawi in recent weeks, displacing more than 200,000 people and leaving hundreds more missing or dead. Baptist Global Response and International Mission Board personnel rushed aid to vital areas, delivering food and supplies to families with critical needs across southern Africa.

Rivers swelled beyond capacity, converted plains into lakes, and completely erased villages. In Malawi, a reported 275 people are missing or assumed dead. Mozambique reported there were 11,000 homes destroyed and 88 fatalities.

Many villages in Malawi and Mozambique currently remain closed off by flooded roads, preventing relief supplies from reaching those in need. Despite the ongoing obstacles, IMB missionaries are launching relief efforts where possible.

Partnering with Baptist Global Response, missionaries in Mozambique distributed food and supplies to more than 600 families.

Cyclone Chedza hit Madagascar on Jan. 16, causing havoc across the center of the island and sweeping away villages as rivers burst their banks. IMB missionaries David and Kristin Washer and their family were at home in Manakara when the rain began to leak into their house.

“There’s a river that runs perpendicular to our street, and to the left of our house [the road] is uphill. About five in the morning we got up and were cleaning up water in our house because everything was leaking. I went out to go check on the neighbors,” David Washer said.

He discovered their neighborhood was on the brink of being enveloped by water. The waters rolled down their street but flowed away from his home. Theirs was the only house on high ground. Washer looked over to a small cluster of homes across the street and saw an elderly woman knocked over by the current. He ran, picked her up, and carried her across the street to his house, which still remained above the floodwaters.

As the waters rose higher, the current became too strong for him to walk unassisted. Before continuing to help others cross the road, now flooded with waist-deep water, he grabbed a rope from his kids’ swing set and anchored it across the street.

Washer recalled, “We dodged one house going down our ‘street river’ while we were rescuing people trapped by the flash flood. God let us be involved in saving many lives.”

Washer and six other men from the neighborhood carried women and children to his home, the only space safe from the rising water. People filed into the Washers’ backyard, balcony and spare rooms.

For the next two nights, the Washers’ neighbors stayed with them in their home. On the third day, supplies were delivered to a nearby school. Families left to gather aid supplies and returned to rebuild their homes. Of the 97 homes in the neighborhood, 23 were completely destroyed. Seven people died after being swept away by the strong current.

While Washer and other men were rescuing people in their neighborhood, a search and rescue operation was underway to bring stranded IMB journeymen Amber Gould and Kayla Mabery to safety. Downed cell phone towers and impassable roads made it impossible to reach the young women. Finally a helicopter found and rescued Gould and Mabery and took them to a place of refuge in Manakara.

The rains have stopped for now, but repairing the damage will continue over the coming months. Progress may stall, as roads remain flooded in many parts of Madagascar, Mozambique and Malawi.

Baptist Global Response is bringing much-needed assistance to the effected countries. For more information on relief efforts, visit www.gobgr.org.

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  • Evelyn Adamson