May 23, 2024

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Malawi buries cyclone victims as death toll rises

Malawi buries cyclone victims as death toll rises

  • More than 270 dead in Malawi, Mozambique and Madagascar
  • More than 16,000 affected people in Malawi – United Nations
  • Malawian President calls on the international community to help

BLANTYRE/MAPUTO (Reuters) – Malawian families gathered on Wednesday to remember and bury the victims of Tropical Cyclone Freddie, and President Lazarus Chakwera called on the international community for support as the death toll rose.

Freddy ripped through South Africa for the second time in a month over the weekend and was still dumping heavy rains on Wednesday, hampering relief efforts.

“I am personally very devastated,” Chakwera told reporters in the town of Naocha, Chilubue town on the outskirts of Blantyre. “Sometimes when you’re going through those many boxes, you can’t help but shed tears because, darlings, one whole family just wiped out and so many other people touched.”

Malawi’s disaster management said in a statement that the death toll from the storm’s second strike had risen to 225 from 190, 707 injured and 41 missing.

“We are using hope as our currency to encourage those who have survived not to leave them alone because we trust you, as our international neighbours, so that Malawians can carry on that hope,” the president said, adding that survivors would be clothed, fed and sheltered.

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Gift Daniel, a survivor from Metoshira village in Chiradzulu district, told Reuters that he managed to save his wife and three children, but lost his in-laws and other family members.

“We didn’t know what was happening and we shouted at our relatives. We tried to escape but the water took us,” Daniel said, adding that he now has nowhere to stay.

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Tamara Black, 26, said she almost lost her baby before anyone could save him.

“What I saw was scary, something I had never seen in my life. When I went outside, it was as if the sky was moving,” she said in her native Chichewa language.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, said in a statement that it is deeply concerned about the devastation and impact of Tropical Cyclone Freddy, which affected more than 16,000 people in 10 districts in the southern region of Malawi.

In neighboring Mozambique, at least 21 people have died as of Tuesday, according to the disaster management agency.

The total number of dead since Freddy first made landfall in February is estimated at more than 270 in Malawi, Mozambique and Madagascar.

Malawi’s army, police, local Red Cross and other aid agencies are carrying out search and rescue operations, and the Blantyre commercial center has been one of the hardest hit areas.

Floods and mudslides washed away homes, broke bridges and destroyed roads. Heavy rains continued to lash the Mozambican port of Quelimani and its surrounding areas.

“Our priority now, while we assess what really happened, is to search for and rescue people in the most affected areas. We have saved thousands but thousands more are still unreachable,” disaster agency spokesman Paulo Thomas said by phone from Quelimani.

(This story has been paraphrased to say the village of Matushira, not the village of Taushila, in paragraph 6)

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Additional reporting by Frank Ferry in Blantyre, Manuel Mukare in Maputo, Tom Gibb and James Chanika in Chiradzulu; Additional reporting by Nellie Bitton in Johannesburg. Writing by Bhargav Acharya and Anait Meridzanian; Editing by Alexander Winning, Nick McPhee and Alex Richardson

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