Death toll exceeds 100 as Cyclone Freddy slams Malawi, Mozambique
BLANTYRE/MAPUTO. – Mozambique and Malawi yesterday were counting the cost of Tropical Storm Freddy, which killed more than 100 people, injured scores and left a trail of destruction as it ripped through southern Africa for the second time in a month over the weekend.
In Malawi, the commissioner for Disaster Management Affairs Charles Kalemba said yesterday they had confirmed 99 deaths in various districts of the Southern region with Blantyre alone recording 85 deaths and 134 serious injuries today
The deaths in Malawi include five members of a single family who died in Blantyre’s Ndirande township after Freddy’s destructive winds and heavy rains demolished their house, according to a police report.
A three-year-old child who was “trapped in the debris” is also among the victims, with her parents among those reported missing, authorities also said.
“We suspect that this figure will rise as we are trying to compile one national report from our southwest, southeast and eastern police offices which cover the affected areas,” said Malawi police spokesperson Peter Kalaya.
At least 36 bodies were found in one township of Chilobwe, in Blantyre, a vast city of more than one million people, regional police spokeswoman Beatrice Mikuwa said, adding the township was “hit the most”, with dozens of houses washed away.
Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera declared a “state of disaster in the Southern region” of the country after he “noted with grave concern the devastation that Cyclone Freddy is currently bringing”.
The government is already responding to the disaster while appealing for local and international relief aid for the affected families, it said.
At least six people died in Mozambique’s Quelimane, which was struck hard by the storm, authorities told the public broadcaster yesterday.
The cyclone lashed over Mozambique and Malawi over the weekend and into yesterday. It’s the second time the record-breaking cyclone — which has been causing destruction in southern Africa since late February — made landfall in mainland Africa. It also pummelled the island states of Madagascar and Réunion as it traversed across the ocean.
Scores more people were injured, Health Minister Armindo Tiago said on Radio Mozambique.
Much of the damage experienced in Malawi is in homes built in areas prohibited by law such as in mountainous regions or near rivers where they are battling landslides, unprecedented flooding and rivers bursting their banks. The cyclone has forced the Malawian government to suspend schools in 10 districts in its southern region “as a precautionary measure.”
“The situation is critical in Zambezia province. We can’t advance with an accurate picture of the scale of damage because there’s no communications with all the regions,” he said from a hospital in Quelimane.
The total number killed by storm Freddy in Mozambique, Malawi and Madagascar since it first made landfall last month is now nearing 100.
The cyclone has intensified a record seven times and has the highest-ever recorded accumulated cyclone energy, or ACE, which is a measurement of how much energy a cyclone has released over time. Freddy recorded more energy over its lifetime than an entire typical U.S. hurricane season.
Freddy first developed near Australia in early February and travelled across the entire southern Indian Ocean. It’s set to be the longest-ever recorded tropical cyclone.
Telecommunications and other essential infrastructure are still cut off in much of the affected Zambezia province, impeding rescue and other humanitarian efforts.
French weather agency Météo-France’s regional tropical cyclone monitoring centre in Réunion warned yesterday that “the heaviest rains will continue over the next 48 hours” as Freddy barrels on. Freddy is expected weaken and to exit back to sea tomorrow, according to Météo-France. – AP