It has now emerged that Cyclone Idai was preceded by a 3.8 magnitude earthquake, compounding the destructive effects of the cyclone. Are the erratic weather patterns in Africa the result of environmental warfare experiments gone awry? Baffour Ankomah reports.
It is said lightning never strikes the same place twice. But Zimbabwe got a double whammy on the night of 14 March when Cyclone Idai battered the picturesque Eastern Highlands shortly after, according to the government, a 3.8 magnitude earthquake hit the Chimanimani and Chipinge districts of the Eastern Highlands, leaving 344 people dead, hundreds of thousands homeless, several hundreds missing, scores of sleepy villages under rubble, and an estimated $1bn-worth of property destroyed.
The earthquake, acknowledged by the government only on 10 April, explains why there were massive landslides in the affected areas, flattening villages and leaving behind huge boulders and thick mud that had rolled from the top of the mountains and destroyed villages down below, burying some villagers under thick mud and stones as they slept in their beds when Idai hit the area.
On two visits to the affected areas, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, looking at the scale of the destruction, is said to have told his officials that some unexplained phenomenon happened in the Chimanimani and Chipinge areas and that the phenomenon could not simply be ascribed to Idai. The President asked them to investigate.
On 10 April, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa announced after a cabinet meeting that the "cabinet has established that the scale of the disaster was to some extent exacerbated by a 3.8 magnitude earthquake which hit the Chimanimani areas shortly before the onset of the cyclone.
"A team of experts is currently on the ground in the Chimanimani and Chipinge areas carrying out a disaster vulnerability assessment exercise with a view to determining the suitable long-term settlement and land use patterns," she said, adding: "Priority continues to be accorded to the repair or construction of damaged roads, and bridges, school infrastructure, health infrastructure, and the provision of large-scale psychosocial support."
The government has since launched an international humanitarian appeal, asking for help from international partners (to the tune of $612m) to assist the victims.
Minister Mutsvangwa said "the search and recovery process is now confined to recovery of the deceased as the missing persons can now be...