After wreaking havoc across southern Africa for the second time in a month, the catastrophic tropical cyclone Freddy is now certified to have claimed the lives of nearly 200 people in the country of Malawi. As the rain keeps coming down and rescue workers struggle to find both the dead and the living in the mud, it is expected that the number of deaths will rise.
The heavy rains that led to floods and mudslides have caused significant damage to homes and infrastructure; the loss of power and communications in many of the affected areas continues; and an estimated 19,000 people have been forced to relocate as a result of the disasters.
Steve Panganani, a resident of Matera, pointed to a mud and water-filled wasteland on the side of a hill and said, “This whole area was full of houses.” “Now people are gone, things are gone, everything is gone; it’s gone down from up there. Down, down. It was a newly developed area, but all of the houses had vanished,” he explained.
According to the United Nations, a lack of electricity and communications is making it difficult to carry out relief efforts, and the fact that the majority of the affected regions are still inaccessible means that it is still unclear how extensive the damage is. Médecins Sans Frontières, a humanitarian organization that provides medical assistance, has issued a warning that the hospital serving the region is “overwhelmed by the influx of injured people.”
The nongovernmental organization is concerned that there will be an increase in the number of cases of cholera in the nation, which is already dealing with the deadliest infectious disease it has ever known. On Tuesday, Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera proclaimed a “state of disaster” in the country’s southern region, which includes the country’s commercial capital, Blantyre, which has been completely destroyed.
Before making its way back out to sea late Wednesday afternoon, meteorologists anticipate that Tropical Storm Freddy will continue to pound southern Malawi and central Mozambique with extremely heavy rainfall.