In Malawi, survivors of Cyclone Freddy have no beds and little food

Soaked clothes hang from the windows of a school in Malawi’s financial capital, Blantyre region. Here, hundreds of homeless people have come to seek shelter after Cyclone Freddy killed nearly 200 people in the poor southern African country.

An unusually long-lasting tropical cyclone, which struck southern Africa twice in less than three weeks, is wreaking havoc in the south of the country. Torrential rains caused deadly floods and landslides. According to the government, at least 190 people have been killed.

14-year-old Mayeso Chinthenga had gone with other boys to collect firewood when he “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”.

He and the rest of his five family members have been staying at the company school 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.”

About 20,000 Malawians lost their homes as the cyclone returned to the region.

Freddie first hit southern Africa in late February. After an unprecedented twisting trajectory, it came back a few weeks later. According to meteorologists, it hit Mozambique for the second time in the weekend (20 dead), before moving towards southern neighbor Malawi on Monday at 200 km/h.

– Freeze-dried rice –

To make room in the classrooms, desks have been pushed against the walls. Freddy’s survivors sleep on the ground, on concrete.

A view of a street after floodwaters recede in Chimakwankhunda district in Blantyre (Malawi) on March 14, 2023 (AFP – Jack McBrames)

No mattress, no ceiling lamp, “we use solar lamps”, explains Rose Langer, a humanitarian worker at the site.

Food comes slowly and thanks mainly to donations, she continues: rice, beans and something to drink.

Three women make traditional porridge from maize flour in the school kitchen. He volunteered to prepare the food.

A bag of freeze-dried rice with beans and meat in his hand, Myeso Chinthenga is happy to have food for the first time since he arrived there.

An overview of a road ravaged by floodwaters in the Chimakwankhunda district of Blantyre, Malawi, March 14, 2023 (AFP - Jack McBrames)
An overview of a road ravaged by floodwaters in the Chimakwankhunda district of Blantyre, Malawi, March 14, 2023 (AFP – Jack McBrames)

A state of emergency is triggered in order to be able to release extraordinary resources. The government is also counting on international aid.

Freddie is expected to move back out to sea and weaken during the week, according to forecasts. Several storms or cyclones pass through the southwest Indian Ocean each year during the hurricane season, which runs from November to April.

The phenomenon, which originated from Australia and reached hurricane stage in early February, has been raging in the Indian Ocean for 36 days. Tropical Cyclone John lasted for 31 days in 1994.

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