Malawi storm survivors place hope in solar power to switch on 'new life'

(Reuters News, 4 Jul 2019) Development agency Practical Action found solar micro-grids built with storm risks in mind were largely able to withstand Cyclone Idai and could help local people recover faster.

Residents of Mwalija village received a rude awakening when their homes were rattled and flooded by Cyclone Idai in March.

"It was a scary situation and we rushed to the site where there is a solar panel," said Hannah Longeya, pointing at the fence surrounding the solar power system on higher ground.

"The water reached neck height," she said, adding that some people were forced to hang onto tree branches.

The small solar plant, installed by international development charity Practical Action with European Union funding in 2016, sits on a raised area close to the Shire River, a major source of flooding in this part of southern Malawi.

But the UK-based aid agency said the solar panels survived the powerful cyclone due to forward planning, which it hopes will pay off as climate change brings more extreme weather.

The metal stands holding the solar panels are 15 cm (6 inches) thick and sunk deep into the soil, as well as reinforced with concrete, so they were able to withstand Idai's high winds and heavy rain.

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Reuters News, 4 Jul 2019: Malawi storm survivors place hope in solar power to switch on 'new life'