Cyclone Freddie kills over 200 after battering Malawi and Mozambique
Locating survivors of Cyclone Freddy in Malawi and Mozambique looks uncertain on Wednesday after floods and landslides killed more than 200 people, devastated towns and villages.
More casualties are feared, say rescue workers, who have twice seen the longest cyclone on record hit southern Africa in three weeks.
Freddie followed a looping path rarely seen by meteorologists, making landfall in Mozambique for the second time over the weekend, before moving across southern neighbor Malawi early on Monday.
Officials in Mozambique have reported 20 dead and 24 injured. Malawi has so far paid the heaviest price for a tropical cyclone withdrawal, with at least “190 dead, 584 injured and 37 missing”, according to a statement from the National Disaster Management Office.
President Lazar Chakwera, who returned from Qatar on Tuesday, praised the efforts of the volunteers: “We have come to a devastated country,” he said in a statement.
A state of disaster has been declared in the region of Blantyre, the financial capital and epicenter of the severe weather.
“We are helpless and there is no one to help us,” says 80-year-old John Wittman, who is searching for his son-in-law, who disappeared in the collapse of his house that was swept away by the suddenly rising waters.
– asylum –
About 20,000 Malawians lost their homes as the cyclone returned to the Blantyre region.
14-year-old Mayeso Chinthenga had gone with other boys to collect firewood when they “saw rocks rolling down the mountain”. They ran as fast as they could.
He and his family narrowly escaped the landslide. But “our house has been destroyed. We have lost everything”, he says sadly. Before adding: “Some of our neighbors died on the spot”.
The girl’s family has been living at the Kapeni school in Blantyre area since Monday. Many women and children are also with them.
School teacher Florence Chivale said, “Many people came here looking for shelter, saying they had been saved from mudslides.” “We decided to open classes for them.”
Meanwhile, hospitals in the area are “overwhelmed by the flood of wounded”, Doctors Without Borders, who was on the scene, alerted in a press release. “220 people came to Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital alone, including 42 adults and 43 children, who were pronounced dead on arrival.”
NGOs fear a spurt in cholera cases especially due to lack of vaccines in the country, which is already fighting against the epidemic of this deadliest infectious disease.
About 59,000 people have been affected and about 20,000 displaced in the country, who have been placed in immediate schools or churches.
– Climate change –
Freddie formed off Australia in early February and has been wreaking havoc in the Indian Ocean for 36 days. Tropical Cyclone John lasted for 31 days in 1994.
Freddie first hit southern Africa in late February. After an unprecedented crossing of over 10,000 km from east to west across the Indian Ocean, it made landfall in Madagascar before hitting Mozambique. The death toll then was 17.
Recharging in intensity and humidity over warm seas, Freddy then turned around, returning two weeks later to swoop down on southern Africa. He killed 10 people last week while returning to Madagascar.
Meteo-France director for the Indian Ocean told AFP Emmanuel Clopet that the cyclone “is slightly less intense than at its peak in the middle of the Indian Ocean, but still with strong winds and gusts of up to 200 km/h”. Returned
“It’s very rare for these cyclones to recur,” says climatologist Colleen Vogel of the South African University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, raising the question of climate change.
The southwest Indian Ocean is crossed by tropical storms and cyclones several times a year during the hurricane season which extends from November to April.