Survivors in shock as Cyclone Freddy death toll tops 300 in Malawi and Mozambique

BLANTYRE, March 16 (Reuters) – The last thing Lukia Akimu remembers is the rising waters 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 with her head wrapped in bandages and her neck in a splint.

“I saw a lot of water and some people washed away. Then I don’t know what happened. I don’t know who brought me here,” Akimu, 35, said from a bed in Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Blantyre City.

It is not known if any of his 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, and the toll is expected to rise as authorities continue to assess damage and count the dead in hard-to-reach areas cut off by flooding.

The storm has now dissipated, but heavy rains are expected to continue in parts of Malawi and will likely cause more flooding around riparian areas, the country’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Climate Change said in a statement.

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In Mozambique, some villages have been completely isolated since the cyclone made landfall for the second time on Saturday.

“We have mobilized boats and other means to search and rescue people. There are many communities blocked,” said Paulo Tomas, spokesman for the Mozambican disaster relief agency.

“After this period, they are starving and need a good 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 around 27 people in Madagascar and Mozambique before hitting Mozambique a second time.

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

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

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

As electricity began to return to Malawi on Thursday, many places affected by the storm still had no running water, including Blantyre, the country’s second largest 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 before this storm. The government sent the messages but nothing happened,” said Blantyre resident Logasiano Misoya. “I’m lucky to be alive.”

Freddy is one of the longest lasting tropical cyclones on record and one of the deadliest to hit Africa in recent years.

Reporting by Tom Gibb and Frank Phiri in Blantyre and Manuel Mucari in Maputo; Additional reporting by Carien du Plessis in Johannesburg; Written by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Alexander Winning, Bradley Perrett and Sharon Singleton

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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