Cyclone Freddy, with its exceptional longevity, has killed more than 400 people in South Africa, most of them in Malawi, where the toll worsened Thursday evening, with hopes of survivors becoming increasingly thin.
Freddie has hit the region twice in the past few weeks, killing 73 people in Mozambique, 17 in Madagascar and now 326 in Malawi in its path, according to a recent statement issued by the impoverished country’s president this evening.
“The death toll from this disaster has risen from 225 to 326, and the number of displaced people has more than doubled” in Malawi, surpassing 183,000, said Lazarus Zakwera. More than 300 emergency shelters have been opened.
Forming off the coast of Australia in early February, the cyclone, classified as the longest on record, crossed an unprecedented 8,000 km from east to west across the Indian Ocean. It first made landfall on the east coast of Madagascar on February 21, killing 7 people. Raging for more than 35 days, the phenomenon then hit Mozambique, killing 10 people. It then turned around and struck Madagascar a second time in early March, where another 10 people were killed. He returned to Mozambique, where he caused 63 more deaths.
They were buried in the mud
But it was in Malawi, a landlocked country that felt increased rainfall when the cyclone first passed, that Freddy caused the most destruction when he returned. Heavy rains caused floods and landslides.
A state of calamity and two weeks of national mourning have been declared, with the police and army standing down. “The typhoon destroyed property, houses, crops and infrastructure, including bridges, isolating communities in need of assistance,” said President Saguera, who reiterated the call for aid. The head of state had earlier called for international help in the face of a “national tragedy”.
In neighboring Mozambique, President Philippe Nyusi, visiting the worst-hit Zambezia province (centre) on the border with Malawi on Wednesday, called for an “urgent” mobilization to “repair the destroyed infrastructure”.
Neighbors and rescue workers continued to search the ground in Manje town near Blantyre on Thursday, hoping to find survivors. But the rescues end in a gruesome collection of more and more rotting bodies. Hundreds of the dead were buried in the mud, residents assured AFP. A putrid smell and air bubbles rising to the surface from the waterlogged ground are not the least bit suspicious.
Dark-looking men mutter and pray as they lead a group of five soldiers engaged in search operations down a sticky path surrounded by stones. In front of a dilapidated house, they pull a body, a man, from the ground. His face, still distinctly, retained an expression of anguish. “I hope they find other bodies so they can be buried and rest in peace,” said Rose Free, an elderly woman from the area.
In desolation, miracles sometimes happen: the day before, rescuers saved a 13-year-old promise. She was trapped in the collapsed house for three days.
Freddie began to dissipate, according to World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reporter Randall Cerveny, who described the event as “incredibly long” to AFP.
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According to experts, the warming of the oceans contributes to the intensity of hurricanes. And “Freddie intensified rapidly seven times in its lifetime,” said Roxy Mathew Cole, a climatologist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology. Tropical storms and cyclones form in the southwestern Indian Ocean several times a year. A recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts an increase in the frequency of powerful tropical cyclones.
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