Malawi cyclone toll jumps to 190 as hopes for survivors dwindle


Published: 2023-03-14 19:03

Last Updated: 2024-04-17 16:45

Malawi cyclone toll jumps to 190 as hopes for survivors dwindle
Malawi cyclone toll jumps to 190 as hopes for survivors dwindle

The death toll in Malawi from Cyclone Freddy nearly doubled to 190 Tuesday after the record-breaking storm unleashed floods and landslips in its second strike on Africa in less than three weeks.

After brewing off Australia in early February, Freddy traversed the Indian Ocean, making landfall on southeastern Africa in late February and returning at the weekend to deliver a second punch.

"The death toll has risen from 99… to 190, with 584 injured and 37 reported missing," Malawi's Department of Disaster Management Affairs said in a statement.

Relief workers said they expected the tally to rise.

"The situation is very dire," said Guilherme Botelho, emergency project coordinator for Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

"There are many casualties, either wounded, missing, or dead, and the numbers will only increase in the coming days."

Many people perished in mudslides that washed away homes in the country's commercial capital, Blantyre.

Across the country, nearly 59,000 people have been affected, and more than 19,000 displaced.

In Chilobwe, a township on Blantyre's outskirts, survivors milled about in disbelief, looking at flattened houses and structures as the rain continued to fall.

Many believed there were still people trapped beneath the muddy rubble of earthen bricks -- but there were no rescuers in sight.

John Witman, in his 80s, dressed in a raincoat and woolen hat with his 10 family members in tow, stood in front of what was his son-in-law's house. There were just rocks left and gushing water, for the house had been washed away.

"I wish that we could find him, and find closure. We feel helpless because no one is here to help us -- we don't know what to do," he told AFP.

In Chimkwankhunda, a district a few kilometers (miles) away, Steve Panganani Matera, wearing a high-visibility green jacket, pointed to a mound of mud.

"There were plenty of houses, but they are all gone," said Matera.

"There are plenty of bodies down there in the mud, plenty of bodies."