Cyclone Freddy: more than 400 dead in southern Africa, bruised Malawi
Cyclone Freddy hit three southern African countries twice rather than once.
Cyclone Freddy, exceptionally long-lived, hit more than 400 dead in southern Africa. The vast majority of victims remained in Malawi, where the death toll rose further on Thursday evening as hopes of finding survivors grew dim.
Freddy struck twice in a few weeks in the region, killing in its path 73 people in Mozambique, 17 in Madagascar and now 326 in Malawi, according to a latest report announced in the evening by the president of this poor country.
The death toll from this disaster has risen from 225 to 326, the number of displaced people has more than doubled to more than 183,000 in Malawi, said Lazarus Chakwera, traveling to Blantyre (south), economic capital and epicenter of bad weather. More than 300 emergency accommodations have been opened.
Formed in early February off the coast of Australia, the cyclone on course to be ranked the longest on record made a crossing unprecedented over 8,000 kilometers from east to west in the Indian Ocean. It first made landfall on February 21 on the east coast of Madagascar, killing 7 people. The phenomenon, which has been raging for more than 35 days, then hit Mozambique, killing 10 people
Then it turned back and hit Madagascar a second time in early March, killing 10 more people there. It also returned to Mozambique, where it caused another 63 deaths.
But it was in Malawi, a landlocked country that had only felt an increase in rainfall in the first passage of the cyclone, which Freddy wreaked the most havoc on his return. The torrential rains caused flooding and landslides.
A state of disaster and two weeks of national mourning were declared, the police and the army deployed.
The cyclone destroyed property, houses, crops and infrastructure , including bridges, isolating communities in desperate need of help, lamented President Chakwera, who reiterated his call for help. The Head of State had called the day before for international aid in the face of a national tragedy.
In neighboring Mozambique, President Filipe Nyusi, who visited the most affected province of Zambézia (center), bordering Malawi on Wednesday, also called for an emergency mobilization to repair the destroyed infrastructure.
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Search efforts often result in the discovery of remains.
On Thursday, in the township of Manje near Blantyre, neighbors and rescuers continued to search the ground in the hope of finding survivors. But rescues increasingly end in a macabre collection of decomposing bodies.
Hundreds of dead are buried there, in the mud, assured AFP residents. The putrid smell and air bubbles rising to the surface from the waterlogged floor leave little doubt.
On a sticky path strewn with stones, dark-looking men whisper prayers as they lead the way for a team of five soldiers engaged in search operations. In front of a house in poor condition, they pull a body, a man, from the ground. His still legible face kept an expression of anguish.
I hope they find other bodies so they can be buried and rest in peace, says Rose Phiri , an elderly woman from the area.
In the midst of the desolation, miracles sometimes happen: the day before, rescuers saved 13-year-old Promise. She had been trapped in a collapsed house for three days.
Freddy began to dissipate, according to Randall Cerveny, a rapporteur at the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), who described to AFP an incredibly long phenomenon.
According to specialists, the warming of the oceans contributes to the intensification of cyclones. And Freddy intensified rapidly seven times in its lifetime, noted Roxy Mathew Koll, a climatologist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology.
Tropical storms and cyclones appear several times a year in the southwest Indian Ocean. The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts an increase in the frequency of powerful tropical cyclones.
Malawi calls for help after the passage of a cyclone that killed at least 225