As the storm that was to become Cyclone Idai gathered force over the ocean east of Mozambique, the Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) team in Beira began preparing for the worst. Medications were stacked high on the shelves so they would not be destroyed by flood waters, and sand bags were placed around supply containers to keep them safe and dry. The pharmacy, warehouse, offices and living quarters were all made ready just in case.
News of the devastation only began to emerge days later, once mobile phone service was partly restored. Only then did the international MSF team – who had been evacuated from Beira only to be trapped by high flood waters in Chimoio, some 200 kilometres away ‒ begin to receive messages from their teammates sent during the cyclone. One staff member had spent the night on top of a plastic table with his whole family as flood waters rushed through their home, another had her roof blown away, and a third was stuck in the capital, Maputo, afraid that his family in Beira had died.