I Shouldn’t Be Alive (Limpopo) Part 1

Good morning. Good morning. For our geography lesson we have a special guest. You know him as your physical education teacher. His name is Francisco. Good morning children. Good morning. Thank you for the invite Professor Arão… …to take this geography lesson on rivers. Children, the only way to understand… …how the Great Limpopo works… …is to go visit the river itself. Follow me. Children, this is where we will have… …our lesson on rivers today. The Great Limpopo begins… …in Botswana and South Africa. It borders Zimbabwe and South Africa… …and enters Mozambique through the Gaza Province… …the Guija and Chokwe districts… …and not far from the City of Xai-Xai… …is its river mouth. The Great Limpopo has many tributaries… …along its path… …such as the Shashe and the Olifants River. The Limpopo River feeds and brings life… …to a lot of people and industries. From small fishermen and subsistence farmers… …to the big industrial farms and mines. Today, I’m here not just because I love the river… …but also because I have a story to tell. It all started on the 22nd of January. I was working in the Guijá district. I had slept at my sister’s house in the city of Chokwé. The following day, the 23rd… …I woke up and went to catch a bus. But no buses were going towards Guijá. They were all heading to Macia and Maputo. So I decided to walk to Guijá. On the way, I heard on the radio: The INGC (National Calamity Management Institute)… …has warned that Chokwé will be flooded. The evacuation of people in the affected areas… …has begun and it is recommended… …that all leave the City of Chokwé. My family believed that we would be safe. My family had no warning at all. I started to walk faster towards Guijá. Halfway there, I bumped into an old man and he said: It’s best you don’t go that way… …a big wave is coming from Massingir.. It’s safer to go back to Chokwé. Go, go! Run quick! Without a second thought… …I started to run back to Chokwé. I saw a lady with a child. She was carrying a baby. I had to help before the wave came. As I ran back towards the bridge… …I saw a car taken by the wave. Fortunately the passengers… …were rescued by people nearby. Professor Francisco. Did the wave come from the ocean? No, due to climate variability… …there’d been a lot of rainfall in the neighbouring countries. The floods were intense. The Olifants River… …one of the Limpopo River’s tributaries… …and the Limpopo itself… …were reaching dangerously high water levels. The order to open Massingir Dam’s floodgates… …came too late… …so all the gates were opened at the same time. Water from the Olifants River couldn’t flow… …into the Limpopo River… …because the water levels on the Limpopo River… …was also too high. The water from the Olifants River burst its banks… …and forged a new path. This new path went through the city of Chokwé. It created the wave that everyone saw. Seven others and I rushed to a nearby small bridge. …where we became a group of eight. Seven men and one woman. All of a sudden the water reached the bridge… …then our feet, then our knees. We had nowhere to run, we would have to swim. Everyone, we must stay strong. We must hold on to this bridge… …because if we don’t… …the rising water will take us. We must figure out a way to get out of here. But we don’t know how to swim! How?! I don’t know how to swim! I don’t know how to swim, I don’t know anything. I never swam before, how I am going to get out of here? We started to scream: HELP! HELP! But we couldn’t get out. HELP! HELP! We were on an island. There was water in all directions. We couldn’t escape. HELP! HELP US! It was then that a tree trunk floated by. Some didn’t think that it could save us… …but I did, because it was floating. We tried to climb on the trunk… …but some didn’t trust it. They were saying: “The trunk is too small, it won’t float.” I chose not to leave them behind… …because they didn’t know how to swim. Then we saw grass and reed floating by. I told them: “We have to use these to save ourselves.” “If we don’t make use of this grass and this trunk… …we will only leave here dead.” Hey, pull those reeds closer. Those reeds there, add it there. That one! Pull those reeds there. Yeah! We gathered the grass and tied it to the trunk… …and we all started to float. The tree trunk and the grass didn’t sink. Helped by the current… …we were carried towards the Limpopo River. We tried to go towards the trees and buildings… …but the current kept us going in one direction. After drifting for a few hours… …I asked to call my family… …from someone’s phone… …to say goodbye to them. The water is dragging us. Yes. Towards Chokwé. We are going towards the Limpopo. Goodbye! We were all very tired… …and someone couldn’t hold on. I swam to save him… …but we lost the phone in the process. We passed others clinging to tree tops… …and decided that was our only chance of survival… …because the current was getting stronger.

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