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Mayor Of Beira, Mozambique, Wants Trump To See The Damage From Cyclone Idai

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Mozambique winds down Africa's southeastern coast just across the Indian Ocean from Madagascar. Beira is a bustling port city, home to about half a million people. At least it was bustling until Cyclone Idai came ashore last month. The storm killed hundreds of people across Southern Africa. Beira had invested in drainage canals and retention systems to prevent flooding. The storm overwhelmed it. An estimated 90 percent of the city's infrastructure was destroyed. And now Beira's mayor is asking the world for help rebuilding and preventing climate-related disasters. Mayor Daviz Simango, welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

DAVIZ SIMANGO: Hello. Thank you.

SHAPIRO: The storm came ashore March 14. What does your city look like today?

SIMANGO: So it was really a terrible situation, and now we're starting rebuilding ourselves. The life is coming. I can see in the street people walking, driving. The market is working. The business is ongoing. It will take a long time, as you can understand. We have been building this city more than 100 years, and in a few hours, everything went out.

SHAPIRO: Wow.

SIMANGO: I'm really worrying about the economic sector because they lost their capacity of production, so people can lose their jobs. And maybe we can have crime in the city because people don't have jobs. We have to do something. We have some cases of cholera, which is worrying us. But I think it's under control.

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

SIMANGO: And also we are trying to make sure that the people can go ahead with their life.

SHAPIRO: Now, Mayor Simango, I know that Beira is used to floods, and you oversaw the construction of a massive drainage system under the city to deal with this issue. Why wasn't that enough to prevent the cyclone from flooding the city?

SIMANGO: Yeah, the big problem is the wind. We had resilience for flooding. I remember quite well two or three months ago, we had flooding, and less than 24 hours, all the water was out. Wind did everything - damage everything. We're talking about private houses, schools, hospitals. Our coasts, which has a lot of protecting infrastructure, like breaking walls, was - all of them were destroyed. So if there was no wind, maybe we could survive.

SHAPIRO: While it's impossible to attribute any specific weather event to climate change, we know that a change in climate will make natural disasters more intense. Do you expect events like Cyclone Idai to become more common in Beira?

SIMANGO: Yeah. We used to say what starts, it can continue any time (laughter). Cycle can come any time. So now we're working with the wet bank. We are coming up with the second phase of the drainage system. We're working with UN-Habitat for resilient houses against wind. So in the next weeks, we are going to have all kinds of rules - how to build resilient house against wind, how to rebuild again the houses against flooding. We also going to have rules where to stay and where not to stay. We are mapping all the areas in the city, mapping the vulnerable areas. We have this information - definitely nobody can stay there.

SHAPIRO: I know that your city is just beginning to dig out from this crisis, and you're facing challenges from displaced people to an outbreak of cholera. What is Beira's most pressing need right now?

SIMANGO: Yeah. You know, when you have these kind of disasters - flooding, raining, wind, damaging - so at the end of the day, you have different type of rubbish. And if you keep rubbish water together, the people will be drinking unproper water. So what we need as quick as possible is water, drinking water, food to avoid us against bad nutrition and, well, sanitation. But after that, we need to be clear that mosquito will come and malaria will take place. So we need to prevent us as well against malaria.

SHAPIRO: Is your city getting the support it needs from the international community?

SIMANGO: I hope yes. We had international humanitarian support, which is doing very well. But the question keeps on going. What is going to happen if they go? We're talking about rebuilding Beira. We need resources to rebuild the city and to support those families who lost everything.

SHAPIRO: Mayor Daviz Simango, thank you so much for talking with us and best of luck with the cleanup and recovery.

SIMANGO: Thank you. Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.