Hanang Disaster: Survival Stories, ‘I thought the floods had affected the entire world’

Some are still grappling with the truth that they have lost their whole family members, and others have lost hope completely. These are some of the survival stories in their own words:

Hanang.It’s been a while since I have witnessed this level of desperation, and I do a lot of human-interest stories in my work as The Chanzo correspondent.

I have been here in Hanang for three days now, a district  in the northern part of Tanzania with 367,391 people; 188,063 men and 179,328 women.

In the dawn of December 03,2023, Hanang District was hit with mudslides and debris flows following a heavy rain that showered on Saturday December 02,2023. The mudslides and debris flow wreaked havoc across Hanang; destroying homes, businesses and leaving many dead and injured.

Government report shows that the cause of the tragedy was the breakdown of the weak rocks in mount Hanang, a dormant volcano mountain rising 3,420 meters above the sea level, after consistent absorption of rain water. 

Official reports from the government confirms 76  people are dead, more than 117 people are injured, 1,150 houses destroyed and more people are still missing.

Yesterday, December 06,2023 and today December 07,2023, I spent time talking to survivors here in Hanang, many are still in shock, and fearful; some are still grappling with the truth that they have lost their whole family members, and others have lost hope completely. These are some of the survival stories in their own words:

Danieli Diganyek –‘It’s like I have lost It. I feel like running whenever I see people’

When I see the destruction that happened, I am feeling sad again, as if it’s a fresh sorrow in my heart. Because since the day before yesterday, it’s like I have lost it. I’am meeting people, and I feel like running away. Even when I was finally rescued, I found myself running for no reason.

When we woke up early in the morning on December 03, 2023, we wanted to leave the house, the guest house where we were staying. As we were about to leave, suddenly I heard people screaming. I wondered what the commotion was about. When I went to check, I found water at the door, and I was shocked, the water hit and pushed me, and I found myself lying there. I woke up and immediately grabbed my jacket, phone, phone charger, and shoes.

Later, when I couldn’t find any other way, I climbed onto the wall and hung on the rafters for about two hours until the rain stopped. I descended from the rafters when the rain subsided, and I thought of testing the mud. When I walked in the mud, I ended-up being  stuck in it for about an hour. The situation was dire, but I thank God, I managed to move and get back inside.

I climbed back onto the rafters and stayed there for another hour. During this time, rescue efforts were ongoing, but they couldn’t see me, and I couldn’t be rescued at that moment. I stayed there for about three hours. Later, when the mud debris receded,  I started looking for a way out. I found a small gate at the back, and I broke it down. I managed to get out and I was fortunate enough to be rescued.

Danieli Diganyek explain that participating in a funeral helped him to accept the situation

Mariam Ghasi- ‘We stay awake at night, we are afraid it will happened again’

We have lost relatives, homes, farms, and many children in general. We have lost a lot of things.

Moreover, we stay awake at night; we take turns sleeping. One person sleeps while the other stays awake. We do this to be alert in case there is another incident, similar to what we experienced. So, if something begins again, we  can quickly jump up and run because our lives are still in danger.”

The incident began at 5 a.m in the morning. The  mudflow reached our area by around 6 a.m. By then, we were already awake, so we took immediate action to alert others and move the children to a safer place on the mountain. Some of the adults, including myself, return back to help those who were affected by the flooding. 

Mariam Ghasi now walk around with her one year old

Michael Enda-What we need now is the intensification of the search and rescue efforts

Michael Enda is a chairperson of Ganana A, hamlet.

Here (Ganana A hamlet), there were more than 100 residents, 35 of them lost their lives. We have already buried 32 but three are still missing, and we are still searching for them.

It’s really a very bad situation, not something normal. Truly, it has left me with something that I will never forget in my life. It has never happened before, and I have never heard of such things in our area.

People have lost their belongings; their children are gone. A house that sometimes had eight people, now there are three or even four, some are missing. It’s a very bad thing. Some have lost their wives, their grandchildren, their grandmothers. Really, the situation is bad.

What we need now is the intensification of the search and rescue efforts, especially by bringing equipment that can help remove these logs, such as excavators. Because right now, we see, the People’s Defense Force are here, but the way they work at the moment it’s difficult  for them  to recover people easily, because the logs are too large. For ordinary human efforts, it is impossible; it is something that cannot be done.

What we want to hear from our president is that those who survived are helped. They should get shelter, food, and accommodation so that they can live well like other people. Because most people are left with nothing; everything has been taken. They have no food, no children, they have nothing at all. The government should make it easy for them to receive assistance now, in terms of food and building houses, so that they can live like their fellow human beings.

Michael Enda last word to us is ‘what is the leader without his people’ as he is mourning the loss of his villagers

Protasia Paulo- ‘I have lost 11 relatives. We have no relatives anymore’

I have lost eleven of my relatives. There are only a few of us left, and as you see me today, I am going to lay to rest about eight of my relatives.These were people we were accustomed to as relatives.  

On that day, as we were waking up struggling with water, we didn’t know that on the other hand our brothers and sisters were being swept away. We no longer have any relatives.

I was asleep, and the landlord shouted ‘Wake up, there is a lot of water outside.’ When I woke up, I was only wearing underwear. Looking outside, I saw a terrifying amount of water. I had to go back inside to wake up my neighbor who had an infant. She was fortunate enough to escape, and also an elderly woman in the compound.  We remained trapped and surrounded with mud water, until God brought a large log that provided some safety. We were able to stay behind it until the water receded, and then they came to rescue us from those areas.

Protasia Paulo is still struggling to accept the lose of her relatives

 Hamisi Athmani Abdala-  ‘I thought the floods had affected the entire world’

I am a visitor here, and I was sleeping in a guesthouse. When I heard a loud noise, I opened the door and I was hit by mud debris on my chest. I was forced back inside.

There was a decoder wire hanging, so I grabbed it and went outside. I climbed onto the roof and witnessed how the mud was flowing.I stayed there for a while and eventually, a rescue vehicle came to save people.

In my mind, I thought the floods had affected the entire world, but later on, I turned on my phone and made some calls and asked if other places were affected. I found out that the disaster had just occurred here. 

Most of my friends thought I was dead; they were desperately calling me, but I couldn’t be reached. Later, when they saw me, they were very grateful. 

What I am waiting for now is to take out my car which is stuck under the mud. Just as you can see, the government is doing its job. 

Hamis Abdallah is looking forward to return to his home in Nzega, this has been a life changing experience

Elibariki Naman- ‘Death is a common occurrence, but the death of an entire family leaves a scar

On that western side lived a man named Hassan Swalehe. This man died along with two children. The person with that house there. My house is the one that remains there, as you can see. This area used to be a residential area; there were about seven households, as the Chairperson has told you. And my neighbors, in the morning, we used to greet each other, during the day, we were together, in the evening, we were together. Today, people are not there.

Death is a common occurrence, but the death of an entire family leaves a scar. There are no memories, even a house, to remember that there was a person here, this has deeply hurt us.

I feel bad, and it has left wounds that will never be forgotten in our community. Because there are families that have been completely wiped out – fathers, mothers, and four children have died. So the entire family is gone, and there isn’t even a house left. If they at least had a house, we could say, ‘This is the home of so-and-so.’

Elibariki Naman who is an evangelist believe this is a lesson that, ‘we should mend our ways and return to God’

Saimon Ng’aida

The Hanang tragedy is a tragedy like no other. This afternoon I was talking to Saimon Ng’aida, he told me he has lost twelve members of his family, including his three year old son who was still missing. This was what Simon told me:

“My family has been greatly affected by these floods. About 12 of them have been found. Those who have been found have already passed away, and we buried them. I have managed to find only one who is still alive, but in critical condition, at Babati hospital receiving treatment.”

Amidst our interview Simon rushed away, he has received news that the body of his three year old child has been recovered. He had no strength to stand again, he sat down crying, with few of the other survivors surrounding him. They only have each other at this point.

Saimon Ng’aida seating down crying as other survivors console him

Jackline Kuwanda is a Dodoma-based The Chanzo correspondent. She’s available at Jackline@thechanzo.com. For feedback or related questions contact our editors at editor@thechanzo.com 

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