Rainy season has arrived 6 weeks early this year, and nobody in Tigray is really ready for it. We had two short, heavy rainstorms about 10 days ago, and everyone was surprised that the rains had come this early.
Last Sunday, as we were getting ready to go to the airport to pick up 11 faculty members from Washington University who were to arrive for a medical education conference, the rains came again. The power went out shortly after the rain started (not really unusual here) and Helen and I settled down to watch a movie on my laptop (battery power).
It was a torrential downpour, something that we would have experienced in New Orleans many years ago when we lived there. Because we had had some leakage of water through window-frames last time, Helen went upstairs to check to make sure all of the windows were securely closed and that all was well. As soon as she got upstairs and opened the bedroom door, I heard a screech of distress.
I ran up the stairs to join her and we were confronted with over two inches of water in the bedroom totally covering the entire floor. The water was running out under the door to the small veranda in a torrent. It was moving out of the bedroom itself into the hallway, down over the balcony into the living room and into the stairwell leading upstairs.
The bedroom has a small veranda on the second floor, with a doorway outside (or into the bedroom, depending on where you are). I sloshed over the to door and opened it, stepping out onto the veranda and roof. The gutter overhanging the veranda was blocked and the water was streaming on the veranda. In addition, the vernada is also rather like a bathtub enclosed on three sides but open to the bedroom. There is poor drainage (only two small drainholes over the side of the house into the front yard) and unfortunately ithe floor of the veranda tilts towards the house and, of course, the door to the bedroom. The rain was torrential (we probably had 2-3 inched in a little over an hour) and the water was collecting on the veranda and running directly into the bedroom. I was up to my ankles in rainwater, with more pouring down all the time.
I jumped onto the veranda with a push broom and fought (like the little Dutch boy!) to stem the tide. i succeeded in keeping a lot of water out of the house, but not enough to prevent major damage. In between pushes with the broom, I send out distress signals to all of my Ethiopian friends, who arrived in about 20 minutes. The attempted rescue was under way! Fortunately, the rain stopped, but the carpet in the bedroom (and the bedroom as an inhabitable location) is pretty much destroyed.
We managed to push most of the water downstairs into the stairwell and then into a bathroom drain. Fortunately, the carpet has no underlay and the houses here are built with poured concrete and no drywall, so it isn’t a total disaster. It is, however, a disaster.
We have moved into the Axum Hotel for a few days. Eyoel managed to get a water vacuum from the Axum Hotel and had somebody suck up as much water as was possible. This in itself was a heroic achievement! (Note: There is no “Servicemaster “franchise in Mekelle). Today Eyoel seems to have located a large industrial fan to help dry things out. We’ll see if it works.
We had minimal damage to personal possessions, nobody was hurt, and there were no electrical fires or other problems, but life has gotten a bit tougher.
Don’t expect a lot of interesting blog posts on scenic tourist attractions or other things for a few days until we have dried out!
The medical education conference is going very well, but we are a little distracted!!