Return of Cyclone Freddy: death toll rises to 190 in Malawi

Cyclone Freddy returns: Malawi death toll rises to 190


Record-long Cyclone Freddy, which has struck twice in southern Africa, continues to wreak havoc in Malawi, with a latest report on Tuesday reporting at least 190 deaths in the poor, landlocked country.< /p>

After making landfall for the second time over the weekend in Mozambique, killing at least 10 people, Freddy headed early Monday for southern neighboring Malawi. A state of disaster has been declared in the region of Blantyre, the economic capital epicenter of the bad weather.

The country which has so far paid the heaviest price for the return of the tropical cyclone – which has followed a loop path rarely recorded by meteorologists – now has at least “190 dead, 584 injured and 37 missing”, announced in a press release. the National Disaster Management Office. And the toll could rise further as the search progresses.

In the township of Chilobwe, near Blantyre, residents remained stunned by the remains of the houses swept away by mudslides. The wind has died down but the rain continues.

The constructions made of bricks and mud did not resist.

“We are powerless and no one is there to help us”, cowardly told AFP John Witman, 80, soaked despite a raincoat and a woolen hat. He is looking for his son-in-law, who disappeared when his house collapsed, swept away by the sudden rising waters.

Residents say they believe dozens of bodies are still there, buried in the mud. Excavators have been deployed in some places. The day before, families and rescuers searched the ground with their bare hands.

Hospital overwhelmed

The hospital in the region is “overwhelmed by the influx of wounded”, alerted in a press release from Doctors Without Borders, present on the spot. “The Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital alone received 220 people, including 42 adults and 43 children declared dead on arrival.”

The NGO fears in particular a jump in cholera cases in the country in need of vaccines, which is already fighting the epidemic of this most deadly infectious disease that it has known.

A few kilometers away, in Chimkwankhunda, Steve Panganani Matera shows a huge field of dripping mud: “There were lots of houses here, all gone,” he told AFP, sheltered under a flimsy umbrella.

Under a heavy sky, some try to cross the maroon waters which break from the top of the hills, on improvised bridges made of planks thrown between the scree.

Nearly 59,000 people have been affected in the country and nearly 20,000 displaced, urgently housed in schools or churches.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a statement ” saddened by the loss of life.”

Freddy first struck southern Africa in late February. After an unprecedented crossing of more than 10,000 km from east to west in the Indian Ocean, it made landfall in Madagascar before hitting Mozambique. The death toll was then 17.

Recharging in intensity and humidity over the warm seas, Freddy then turned around, returning to swoop down on southern Africa two weeks later. It claimed 10 lives last week while returning to Madagascar.

The cyclone returned “a little less intense than at its peak in the middle of the Indian Ocean but still with very strong winds and gusts at 200 km/h”, explained to AFP Emmanuel Cloppet, director of Météo-France for the Indian Ocean.

“It is very rare that these cyclones feed again and again”, stresses Coleen Vogel, climate expert at South Africa's University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, blaming climate change.

Freddy formed off the coast of Australia in early February and is rampant in the Indian Ocean for 36 days. Tropical Cyclone John lasted 31 days in 1994.

The South West Indian Ocean is hit by tropical storms and cyclones several times a year during the hurricane season which extends from November to April.