Feb. 13, 2014/ Flooding in Bujumbura


February 9th and 10th brought a torrential downpour of rain. It pounded on the hillsides, building momentum as an avalanche of water rushed into the city. People contemplated going outside to face the rushing waters carrying rocks, trees, and garbage or staying inside their flooding homes, which could collapse at any time. As many buildings did collapse, people were injured or killed. Those that went outside were injured by the rushing debris and many children were killed as they were swept away by the rushing water. Each day the death count rises. Streets, even a few days later, are still under water or washed away. Those not underwater are full of mud and debris.

The morning after the rains, I (Ladd) called my friends to see how they were and what this disaster had brought to their households. Some of their homes received some flooding, but nothing major. We decided to go to some of the areas most affected – neighborhoods which are lowest in elevation, close to the lake, and near the rivers. Despite the road in front of our house being turned into a river, our home hadn’t flooded or collapsed, as many others had.

A lady we had met in the local hospital (for more on the woman’s story, click here) lived in one of these disaster areas. A few friends and I went to see how she was and to be sure her family had survived. As we grew closer to the neighborhood, the sights were shocking. Thousands of displaced people were working hard to sort through the rubble. Homes were destroyed to the point that only the wood rafters and rusty roof tin were left in a pile. All of the mud bricks were washed away. People were scraping together the things they had left and laying it out on the trees and roadways to dry. Schools, businesses, and churches were all flooded, with the buildings completely or partially collapsed. The common outdoor toilets had fallen into their holes.

A while later, we made our way through the rubble and found a familiar mud-brick house. Amazingly, it was still standing! The pregnant woman we had met not long ago was now standing proudly outside her home with a beautiful baby in her arms. We greeted each other and she ushered us inside her home to tell us about the flood.

The mud smeared walls were cracked and breaking away, like you see at the bottom of a puddle after the heat has evaporated the water. Soaking wet, mud bricks were drying out with the recent reappearance of the sun, creating a sauna inside. I felt bad for sweating through my shirt, as the lovely woman shared her story, praised God to have a roof over her head. She had gone out during the storm to help neighbors gather their things from being ripped away, but somehow her house and possessions remained. She recalled the events, obviously vivid in her mind. What seemed to be a hundred little eyes poked through the door to see what the woman was saying, or perhaps to know if I had brought some sweets.

It was a strange emotion to feel. The pleasure to know our friend was safe, but the shocking conditions just outside the door. Should I be happy or sad, or maybe both at the same time? I’m still not sure. At a given moment, I smile, knowing some of my friends are alright. Other times, I suffer the thought of people losing friends, family, and a place to live.

We left the house after some time together, thankful for God’s protection over her family. We went to other homes to help with the damage, clear rubble, and simply pray. Many have lost so much. Thousands are displaced from their homes and are living in temporary shelters. Pray for Burundi through this disaster. Pray for teams and relief aid being given during this time. Pray for God to provide peace and comfort in the midst of trouble.

Ladd Serwat

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