Cyclone ELOISE – the 2021 early response Posted January 26, 2021 by Adrian Nance


Cyclone ELOISE was another one of those weather events that hit Mozambique. It was a tropical storm when over Madagascar. But the Mozambique current is supposed to be hotter than usual. So Storm ELOISE became Cyclone ELOISE. And it hit Mozambique early on Saturday morning. Like this…..

And it pretty much did as predicted

But with disasters, we never start with a clean sheet of paper.

So what was it like before?

It is tough to understand what other people live through. Since we are close to Burn’s Night.. we can be so busy trying to see ourselves as other see us, that we miss what it is like for them.

Here are some clues:

Where’s my farm? 2021 pre cyclone

It is the rainy season. And the period after Christmas there has been a lot of rain.

A local airstrip under water – 2021 pre cyclone

And there is an insurrection in the north of Mozambique. It has grown over the last 3 years. See Relief Web’s assessment. Numbers vary, but about 350,000 people are affected.

And there has been a drought in the south. Yes, floods in the centre and drought in the south! They are about 350 miles apart.

So responders need to weigh the big picture.

So what did the cyclone do?

UN satellite picture
Here’s what ELOISE did – red before, orange after

The cyclone threw about 200mm of rain on the country. The amazingly resilient Mozambican people had already braced for a tough time. And they weathered this storm with poise and perseverance.

And how did we respond?

The UN asked for Wings Like Eagles to assist. This was probably because it’s always tough to know how serious something will be. The shadow of the monster event of Cyclone IDAI means we know each other. And we can trust each other.

Our friends at Mercy Air were quick to respond. They took the pictures above with their Squirrel helicopter. Then they moved it out of the way of the cyclone. Helicopters can be easily damaged. They sent a Kodiak too.

Our normal response would be to send our CEO in one of two roles:

  • ground coordinator (for small scale response) or

air coordinator (for larger scale disasters).

But this time there is a UK variant of COVID that has seriously impacted the British people. And the risk of taking that strain to Africa was very real. So we couldn’t do that.

Instead our ally Jeremy Boddington, now CEO of Mercy Air, went. And Wings Like Eagles trustees agreed to send funds. Thanks for giving us that ability.

Fortunately the impact of the disaster was much less than our worst imaginings.

Rapid or over-reacting?

Well, if I was on the ground I know what I would want. I would rather people over reacted and were not needed. The alternative is people don’t react fast enough. We don’t like that.

So, we aim to be prudent. There isn’t a bottomless pot of money. But we aim to be rapid when we can.

We would value your views:

Why not contact us and have your say?

Better still become a regular donor and help us to respond quickly to the next one.

Many people think they can’t make a difference. Our view is that’s just not true! Talk to us and find out why.

Follow on work

Sometimes the early response leads to follow on activity. It did with Cyclone ELOISE. Have a look and see what we did later.