Mozambique : "We keep going round until everyone knows a cyclone is coming"

CHILEMBBENDE, 17 October 2008 (IRIN) - Mozambique is struck by devastating floods and cyclones almost every year, but investments in preparedness, early warning and communication at community level are saving lives.

With the start of "cyclone season" only a month away, Arlinda Cunah, 34, who lives in the village of Chilembende, runs through the emergency drill with community volunteers.

"When there are cyclones I listen to the radio and wait for news. First I listen alone, and if there are any alerts I call people who are nearby, like my neighbours, and we listen to the warnings together.

"We then warn the community leader - that's where we keep the cyclone early warning flags, the whistles and a bicycle. We then go out and warn the population that a cyclone is coming so that they can take shelter.

"If the warning tells us the cyclone is two days away we use the blue warning flag; and this yellow one is used when we have only one day to prepare. This one means urgent - it's red.

"The population now knows how to react. When we get a warning we move through the community with our whistles and flags. The bicycle is good because we can get to everyone quickly, and we keep going round until everyone knows a cyclone is coming.