Cyclone Freddy death toll in Malawi, Mozambique and Madagascar exceeds 300

Rain and power failures hamper rescue efforts

The last thing Lukia Akimu remembers is the surge of floodwater that hit her village near Mount Soche earlier this week when Tropical Cyclone Freddy tore through southern Malawi.

The next thing she knew, she woke up in the hospital, her head wrapped in bandages and her neck in a brace.

“I saw a lot of water and some people being washed away. Then I do not know what happened. I do not know who brought me here,” said Akimu (35), from a bed in Queen Elizabeth hospital in the city of Blantyre.

It is not known whether any of her family members survived, a nurse told Reuters.


Tropical Cyclone Freddy has killed more than 300 people in Malawi, Mozambique and Madagascar since it first made landfall last month, with the toll expected to rise as authorities continue to assess the damage and count the dead in hard-to-reach areas cut off by floods.

The storm has now dissipated, but heavy rains are expected to continue in parts of Malawi and are likely to cause more floods around lakeshore areas, said the country’s ministry of natural resources and climate change in a statement.

In Mozambique, some villages have been completely cut off since the cyclone made its second landfall on Saturday.

“We mobilised boats and other means to search and rescue people. There are lots of communities stranded,” said Paulo Tomas, spokesperson for Mozambique’s disaster relief agency.

“After this time they are starving and in need of a proper meal and medical assistance,” he said.

At least 53 people have died in Mozambique and 225 in Malawi since the weekend, according to government figures. The storm had already killed about 27 people in Madagascar and Mozambique before it lashed Mozambique a second time.

Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera visited Queen Elizabeth hospital on Thursday, where he prayed with flood victims. The storm left at least 700 people injured in Malawi at last count.

As rain continued to fall, some had to bury their dead.

In the southern Malawi village of Mtauchira, men stood in newly dug graves that had filled up like pools, scooping the water out with buckets so they could lower in the caskets.

While electricity was starting to come back in Malawi on Thursday, many places affected by the storm still had no running water, including in Blantyre, the second-biggest city.

Some Blantyre residents said they wished they had heeded warnings to flee before the cyclone hit, but they did not understand the gravity and had nowhere to go.

“It was very difficult for people to really understand what was going on prior to this storm. Government sent out the messages but then nothing happened,” said Blantyre resident Logasiano Misoya. “I am lucky to be alive.”

Freddy is one of the longest-lasting tropical cyclones recorded and one of the deadliest in Africa in recent years. - Reuters