Rivers on dry lands as Tropical Storm Freddy kills 200 in Malawi



At least 200 people have died in Malawi after Tropical Storm Freddy invaded Southern Africa on Monday. Pictures shared on social media showed houses, cars and roads destroyed. It was as if a river missed its way to the dry lands. 

“We have rivers overflowing, we have people being carried away by running waters, we have buildings collapsing,” Peter Kalaya, Malawi’s police spokesman, told the BBC.

Mr Kalaya said he helped rescue a child in Blantyre after she was carried away by the aggressive waters. 

“The child was stuck up to her head in the mud. She was crying for help. Even though the water was very strong, we managed to cross and rescue her. It was very difficult but we managed to pull her out,” he said. 

At least 40 children have been pronounced dead as of Wednesday, and there are fears that the death toll could increase in the coming hours and days. Blantyre, Malawi’s commercial hub, has recorded the highest number of deaths, with the flood sweeping away dozens of homes. 

“We suspect that this figure will rise as we are trying to compile one national report from our southwest, southeast and eastern police offices which cover the affected areas,” Mr Kalaya said regarding the death toll. 

Aid workers are scared that the flood could result in an outbreak of cholera in the country. The government had already declared a state of disaster in 10 districts in Southern Malawi. 

At the time of this report, rescue workers were already overwhelmed and are using shovels and spades to dig the rubble as they struggle to find survivors.

The rains affecting rescue operations

The country’s commissioner for the Department of Disaster Management Affairs agency, 

Charles Kalemba, on Tuesday, told CNN machinery could not go to places where they are needed because of the rains. 

“It’s tough. We need to use machinery (for rescue operations) but machines cannot go to places where they were supposed to excavate because of the rains,” Kalemba said on Tuesday. “It’s worse today. A number of places are flooding and a number of roads and bridges are cut. Visibility is almost zero. Electricity is off and also the network is a problem. It’s becoming more and more dire.”

As of Wednesday, the rains have subsided, but the rescue operations are still stagnant because several roads have been cut off and most places inaccessible.

There was warning

The massive rains and flooding did not take Malawians unaware. On Monday, the Malawi Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services, on Monday, warned of heavy rains and flooding. 

“Tropical Cyclone FREDDY will continue to cause torrential rains associated with gusty and strong winds in most parts of Southern Malawi districts. The rainfall accumulation could reach between 300 and 400 mm in 48hrs over southern Malawi but might be higher over highlands,” the department wrote. “Therefore, the threat of damaging winds and heavy flooding remains very high. An improvement in the weather over southern Malawi is expected at least from Wednesday evening.”

Malawi calls for help

The Southern African country has called on the nations of the world to provide support for its citizens as they battle the unimaginable disaster. 

Already, a GoFundme account has been opened with an expected donation of $50,000. Many citizens are already homeless in the country. A few deaths have also been recorded in Mozambique.


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