(Blantyre) Cyclone Freddy, “out of the ordinary” because it made a loop rarely observed by meteorologists, killed more than 100 people in Malawi and Mozambique as it returned to hit southern Africa, according to new reports from authorities and NGOs Monday.
At least 99 people have died in Malawi, the disaster management agency said, saying it expects an even higher toll. A previous report provided by the Red Cross in Malawi and the authorities put at least 66 dead in Malawi and four in Mozambique.
“The death toll, including in other affected districts in the southern region, has risen to 99 dead,” agency official Charles Kalemba told a press conference, adding that he expected a even higher score.
Malawi has declared a state of disaster in several southern regions of the country, including that of the economic capital Blantyre, the presidency announced on Monday.
Head of State Lazarus Chakwera “noted with great concern the devastation that Cyclone Freddy is currently causing in many districts…and declared a state of disaster” in the south, he said. she said in a statement.
On the way to being classified as the longest cyclone ever recorded by meteorologists, Freddy had already affected Madagascar and Mozambique at the end of February. The toll was then 17 dead, thousands displaced and houses devastated.
Returning to the region last week following an unprecedented loop trajectory, it first fell on Madagascar for the second time in two weeks, killing 10 people.
Then he came back to hit Mozambique on Saturday night. At least four people died in the province of Zambézia (Centre), open to the Mozambique Channel, local authorities told AFP. But the balance sheet is likely to climb, information reaching with difficulty due to cut communications.
The port city of Quelimane (Centre), about forty kilometers from where the cyclone landed, is still largely isolated from the rest of the world: roads, water, electricity are cut in places, according to Guy Taylor, spokesperson of UNICEF on site reached by telephone.
Many people are missing, authorities said. And the disaster seems to have exceeded fears: “Emergency accommodation centers have been overwhelmed, because the number of people affected has been higher than expected,” Luisa Meque, president of the national management office, told AFP. disasters.
The cyclone which was accompanied by strong winds and torrential rains then moved overnight from Sunday to Monday towards neighboring Malawi, causing flooding and major mudslides. Schools in the country among the poorest in the world have been closed in much of the south.
Most of the bodies were found in the Blantyre area, according to local police. “Relief operations are still ongoing, but they are hampered by the incessant rains,” spokeswoman Beatrice Mikuwa told AFP.
In nearby Chilobwe township, around 40 houses were swept away and their occupants buried in mud, an AFP journalist noted.
Richard Duwa, 38, a civil servant, told AFP the water suddenly rose in the middle of the night. At 11:00 p.m. (Eastern time, 5:00 a.m. local time), he received a phone call: five members of his family living in the township had been taken away.
“We just found the body of a little boy, but the others are still missing,” he said. He has to go to the morgue. Bodies were found downstream, it could be his relatives.
The national carrier, Malawi Airlines, has canceled all flights to Blantyre until further notice.
Freddy is expected to return by sea during the week and weaken, according to forecasts.
The phenomenon, formed off Australia and which reached the storm stage in early February, has been raging in the Indian Ocean for 35 days. It passed off the French island of Reunion and Mauritius causing limited damage there.
Several storms or cyclones cross the southwest Indian Ocean each year during the hurricane season which extends from November to April.