Malawi buries cyclone victims as death toll rises further

  • More than 270 dead in Malawi, Mozambique and Madagascar
  • More than 16,000 affected in Malawi – UN
  • Malawi’s president appeals to the international community for help

BLANTYRE/MAPUTO, March 15 (Reuters) – Malawian families gathered on Wednesday to commemorate and bury the victims of Tropical Cyclone Freddy, with President Lazarus Chakwera calling on the international community for support as the toll continues to mount.

Freddy crossed southern Africa for the second time in a month over the weekend and was still causing heavy rain on Wednesday, hampering relief efforts.

“I am personally so devastated,” Chakwera told reporters in Naotcha, Chilobwe township, on the outskirts of Blantyre. “Sometimes when you walk right past these many coffins, you can’t help but shed tears because, loved ones, an entire family completely wiped out and so many others who have been affected.”

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

“We use hope as a motto to encourage those who survived not to be left alone because we trust you, as our international neighbors, that Malawians can carry on with that hope,” the president said, adding that the survivors needed clothes, food and shelter.

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

“We didn’t know what was going on and shouted to relatives. We tried to escape but were swept away by the water,” Daniel said, adding he had no place left to stay.

Tamara Black, 26, said she nearly lost her baby before someone managed to save him.

“What I saw was scary, something I had never seen in my life. When I walked out of the house, it was like the sky was moving,” she said in her language. local, the Chichewa.

The UN Refugee Agency said in a statement it was deeply concerned by the devastation and impact of Tropical Cyclone Freddy which affected more than 16,000 people in 10 districts in Malawi’s southern region.

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

The total death toll since Freddy first made landfall in February is now estimated at more than 270 in Malawi, Mozambique and Madagascar.

The army, police, local Red Cross and other Malawian aid agencies were carrying out search and rescue operations, with Blantyre Mall being one of the hardest hit areas.

Severe flooding and mudslides have washed away homes, broken bridges and destroyed roads. Heavy rains continued to hit the Mozambican port of Quelimane and surrounding areas.

“Our priority now, as we take stock of what really happened, is to search for and rescue people in the most devastated areas. We have rescued thousands of people but thousands more are still inaccessible,” disaster management agency spokesman Paulo Tomas said by phone from Quelimane.

Reporting by Frank Phiri in Blantyre, Manuel Mucari in Maputo, Tom Gibb and James Chanika in Chiradzulu; Additional reporting by Nellie Peyton in Johannesburg; Written by Bhargav Acharya and Anait Miridzhanian; Editing by Alexander Winning, Nick Macfie and Alex Richardson

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