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Mozambique tourist resort struggles to recover from cyclone

by Staff Writers
Vilankulo, Mozambique (AFP) March 18, 2008
Little more than a year after Cyclone Favio ripped through Mozambique's premier tourist resort of Vilankulo, the town still resembles a refugee camp as it struggles to recover.

With faded tents and roofless, unused buildings a stark reminder of the damage inflicted by Favio, residents breathed a sigh of relief when another cyclone headed their way was downgraded Friday to a tropical depression.

Cautious inhabitants thronged internet cafes over the weekend to keep a close eye on weather service sites to observe the movement of Cyclone Jokwe, which returned to Madagascar after being downgraded.

But even without a fresh storm hit, Vilankulo faces a long haul back to normality.

At the Vilankulo rural referral hospital, patients continue to be accommodated in tents whose UNICEF colours have long since faded.

Malaria patient Celia Armando, 24, lying prone on one of the makeshift hospital beds, said the airy tents were nice in the heat, but not where you wanted to be if a cyclone struck.

"It is not a good place to be when everyone is talking of a cyclone ... you will just be thinking that the winds will come and lift the tents up and leave us in the wind," she said.

A hospital official who asked not to be named said reconstruction had begun, but he did not know what had taken so long.

UNICEF spokesperson in Maputo Thierry Delvigne-Jean said the tents had been distributed as a temporary relief measure to house expecting mothers after the maternity ward was destroyed in the cyclone.

"I am not aware that the hospital is still using the tents to accommodate patients at the hospital," he told AFP, adding that UNICEF and the European Union had donated "huge amounts" of money for rehabilitation after the cyclone. A short distance from the hospital, builders are busy plastering the walls of a teacher training college which was also destroyed in the cyclone, which killed about 30 people and displaced nearly 90,000 throughout Mozambique.

Also nearby, an education department building that lost its roof in the cyclone lay abandoned after its occupants relocated to another part of town.

Children in Vilankulo are still studying in tents as they wait for their schools to be rebuilt.

Carlos Chissano, deputy national director of planning and cooperation, told AFP in a telephone interview that the reconstruction of schools had taken a long time as government had to wait to receive money from donors.

"For example we received 700,000 dollars from the African Development Bank at the end of last year and we had to put the money into the 2008 budget. This meant the reconstruction of the schools was delayed," said Chissano.

Roderick Ucucho, a tourism operator in the town still has reminders on his cellphone which he used to record coconut trees being blown over and metal sheet roofs flying off houses.

"Cyclone Favio was something that happened (once) in a lifetime and we have memories that will never be erased," he said.

While government has struggled to mend its infrastructure the privately owned tourism sector is confident they have built structures which are "more weather resistant."

Margie Joens of the Vilankulo based Tourist Services said aside from building more resistant structures, tourism operators have "also decided to cut down trees near their facilities which contributed to the destruction of a lot of buildings."

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Mozambican government seeks urgent food aid after cyclone
Maputo (AFP) March 17, 2008
The Mozambican government has made an urgent appeal to the UN World Food Programme to help more than 60,000 people left destitute when cyclone Jokwe hit northern and central parts of the country.

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