Rain fell like stair-rods the whole day on Monday. In the evening a wind began to whip up, reaching gale force during the night and bringing yet more heavy rain. Cyclone Ana was arriving in Zomba.
After weeks of longing for the rains to arrive, it was too much of a good thing. There were widespread floods, including in several power stations, causing the national electricity supply to close down. So far as we know, eleven people lost their lives.
An incalculable number suffered damage to their property. Even in my small circle in Zomba several friends saw their houses lose their roofs, in some cases resulting in the whole building disintegrating. When I think of how they have scraped and saved and struggled to build their simple homes, it is heartbreaking that these can be destroyed literally overnight.
No wonder Malawi has declared a natural disaster. The infrastructure of the country has suffered badly, with bridges swept away and parts of the electric grid destroyed. At a time when Covid-19 has further weakened an already struggling economy, the task of rebuilding is a daunting one.
For people here, climate change is not something to be discussed in terms of 2030 or 2050. It is here now, and it is devastating. Ominous for Malawi are reports that there could be five or six such cyclones during the current rainy season, with Storm Batsirai said to be forming already in the Indian Ocean.
As Greta Thunberg would tell us, this is not a time for “blah, blah, blah.” It is time for a new imagination and for radical action, costly for those in the affluent world. Time to heed the prophets who comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.