March has been rough on the world. Earthquakes. Floods, Landslides. Collapsing buildings. Plane crashes. Terrorist attacks. Honestly, if you want to make any sort of difference, it’s difficult to know where to start.
Out of all the disasters and tragedies, I’ve decided to focus on the devastation wrought by Cyclone Idai on the desperately poor African countries of Mozambique and Malawi. On March 14th, this powerful storm triggered horrendous flooding and mudslides that have completely destroyed much of the already fragile infrastructure in these two nations. At least a million and a half people have been affected, nearly half a million in the city of Beira alone, which was submerged until just a few days ago.
There are, of course, many organizations working to provide rescue and relief services in the face of this catastrophe. Today I’ve decided to support CARE, which is particularly focused on the needs of women and girls.
You can find out more about the charity’s efforts to allay the suffering of Idai’s victims here.
Credit: Direct Relief.org
As usual, I will donate one dollar to my chosen charity for each comment I receive on this post. Furthermore, I’ll give away a copy my latest release, Valentine’s Visit: Four-Way Friend Swap, to one randomly selected commenter.
So please, do say something to let me know you’ve read this post!
As usual, I also have an excerpt to thank you for dropping by. Today’s snippet comes from Monsoon Fever, a MMF romance set in India just after World War I. It includes a disaster scene, which as is often the case affects the poorest and most vulnerable people.
It took nearly four hours for the auto to creep back to the plantation. Full night had fallen by the time they arrived. The rain had slackened, but it was still heavy enough to drench them, despite their umbrellas, on the climb up the path.
Jon must be terribly worried, thought Priscilla. She imagined him pacing back and forth on the veranda, peering into the night for any sign of them. Guilt weighed on her spirit, though she knew she was not responsible for the weather or the delay. Her intense reactions to Anil did not alter her deep love for her husband.
She had not, technically, been unfaithful. Still, she was honest enough to admit to herself that, if the storm had not interrupted, she would have gladly surrendered herself to Anil. In public, in a sacred space, she would have been willing—no, eager—to allow the seductive native access to her body. Her sex ached, remembering his intimate touch. She looked up at him, but she could not read his expression in the dark. Did he still want her? Would he try again?
Priscilla tried to compose herself, to think only of Jon and his concern. As the house came into view, she stopped short in surprise.
Normally at this time, Lalida would have lit the kerosene lamps and golden light would be spilling out from the windows onto the path. But the bungalow was completely dark, and silent too, no sounds of clattering dishes from the kitchen, no scratchy jazz coming from Jon’s gramophone.
“Jon? Jonathan?” Priscilla voice signalled her alarm as she and Anil climbed to the porch. The door was half open, definitely a bad sign. “Lalida?” Had they been attacked and abducted by some of bandits that occasionally roamed the hills? But there was no sign of any struggle or violence.
She clutched at Anil’s soggy coat. “What could have happened? Where are they?”
“Where are the lamps?” Before she could answer, he located a lantern and a box of lucifers on the mantel. In a moment he had it lit. They looked around the parlour, seeking clues.
Priscilla saw it first. The note was scrawled on a scrap torn from a ledger, and fastened to the dining room door frame with a nail.
“Landslide at the village. Gone to help.” The writing was barely legible, but she recognised Jon’s hand.
A landslide! Priscilla recalled the heaps of mud and rock piled by the road on the way to Gauhati. “We must go to them,” Anil insisted, reading over her shoulder. “A landslide can bury a whole town, or sweep it away.” He searched her face. “Do you have shovels or picks? And buckets, buckets would be useful.”
“In the utility shed, behind the house.” Anil was already on his way out the door.
Jon had taken most of the tools, but they found a short spade and a mattock. They grabbed them and scrambled up the slippery path toward the village, rain still washing over them in dense squalls. As they approached the site of the village, home to the plantation workers and their families, shouts filled the air. Lanterns flickered in the wet, black night.
Priscilla had visited the village several times, bringing sweets for the children and English soap for their mothers. She hardly recognised the scene of devastation before her now. There was no sign of the wooden huts that sheltered the workers. She saw only a vast sea of mud, with splintered planks and beams jutting out at odd angles. Half naked men dug frantically in the muck, looking like an army of demons in the shifting lantern-light. Children hung onto their mothers, wailing or watching the rescue efforts silent and wide-eyed. An elderly woman, tattered sari clinging to her wizened body, crouched under a tree half-crushed by a huge boulder.
Priscilla saw Jon near the far perimeter, wielding a shovel and yelling orders to the other men. She stumbled across the ex-village, the treacherous mud sucking at her feet, and threw herself into his arms.
“Darling! I was so worried.” she cried. “Are you all right?”
Jonathan held her so tight she could scarcely breathe. His chest was bare and streaked with dirt. His blond hair was black with rain and soil. “Priscilla! Thank God! I’m so glad to see you!”
“How bad is it?”
“Bad—nearly all the houses were destroyed—but it could have been much worse. Most of the villagers were up at the shrine when the hillside gave way. We think that there are only a few people buried. We’re trying to find them before it’s too late.”
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