Malawi calls for help after cyclone kills at least 225

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Malawi calls for help after cyclone that kills at least 225

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Cyclone Freddy hit Malawi twice rather than once.

Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera on Wednesday appealed for international assistance to deal with the devastation of Cyclone Freddy, “a national tragedy”, which claimed at least 225 lives in the impoverished southern African country.

The Head of State has declared two weeks of national mourning, with the flags lowered during the first week. This cyclone is the third in 13 months to hit our country. Proof of the realities of climate change, he said in a televised speech.

Traveling earlier to Blantyre (south), economic capital and epicenter of the disaster, he attended a ceremony for the victims. It's a national tragedy, he said, in a raincoat and rain boots.

I appeal to international partners and donors to help further help with the destruction and damage caused by Tropical Cyclone Freddy, he continued.

Dozens of mourners attended the rally held at a school in Chilobwe township, near Blantyre. Twenty-one coffins adorned with wreaths of flowers were lined up under a tent, protected from the light and continuous rain.

An emergency ministerial meeting authorized the release of 1.6 billion Kwachas ($1.5 million) for affected populations. But I can already tell you that this money will not be enough, stressed Mr. Chakwera in his speech.

Freddy has killed at least 225 people during his visit.

A exceptional longevity, Freddy had already struck southern Africa at the end of February, killing 17, before returning in the opposite direction at the beginning of March.

With less powerful winds, but carrying torrential rains, the cyclone caused heavy flooding and deadly landslides in Malawi, a landlocked country where a state of disaster was declared. The police and the army have been deployed.

Several dozen people are still missing. President Chakwera has pledged to step up the search.

More than 88,300 more are homeless. Schools and churches have been turned into emergency accommodation. A total of 165 centers have been opened.

The destruction is enormous, Felix Washon, spokesperson for the Malawi Red Cross, told AFP. And the collapsed bridges and the still high water level in some places complicate rescue operations. Survivors were found on trees and rooftops.

In Chilobwe, vulnerable dwellings made of bricks and earth were ravaged by massive mudslides.

But life has already slowly resumed, markets and businesses have reopened. There are dead here, all around, says Fadila Njolomole, 19. The NGO Doctors Without Borders (MSF), present on the spot, fears a jump in cholera cases in the country which is already battling a deadly outbreak of the disease.

Freddy's latest forecast is expected to dissipate over land, but the rains are likely to persist for several more days.

Cyclone Freddy seen from space on February 20, 2023.

The cyclone also hit neighboring Mozambique, where it hit kills 63, according to the National Institute for Disaster Management.

President Filipe Nyusi visited the most affected province in this second wave, Zambezia (center), bordering Malawi, on Wednesday. We mourn 53 deaths in this province, Nyusi said in a televised statement after the visit. , calling for an emergency mobilization of national and international aid to repair the destroyed infrastructure. Ten people had died during the first passage of the cyclone in Mozambique at the end of February.

In the coastal town of Quelimane about forty kilometers from where the cyclone landed, the rain has not stopped since the weekend. Many houses were destroyed, roofs torn off and roads cut off: The city is almost an island, according to Thomas Bonnet of the NGO Friends in Global Health, on site.

Freddy, who made an unprecedented crossing of more than 8000 kilometers from east to west in the Indian Ocean, has been raging for more than 35 days. It is on track to be ranked as the longest cyclone in history by meteorologists.

Tropical storms and cyclones appear several times a year in the southwest of the Indian Ocean, during the hurricane season from November to April.

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