Cyclone Freddy, “out of the ordinary” because it triggered an episode that meteorologists rarely notice, killed at least 70 people in Malawi and Mozambique when it returned to batter South Africa, according to new reports from authorities and NGOs Monday.
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At least 66 people have died in Malawi, according to a tweet from the Red Cross, which is involved in rescue operations and cites government figures.
An earlier report from the authorities reported 11 deaths in Malawi and 4 in Mozambique. On its way to ranking as the longest-running cyclone ever recorded by meteorologists, Freddy had already affected Madagascar and Mozambique at the end of February.
The death toll at the time was 17 dead, thousands homeless and homes destroyed. Returning to the area last week after an unprecedented loop trajectory, it first fell on Madagascar for the second time in two weeks, killing 10 people. Then it came back to hit Mozambique on a Saturday evening. Local authorities told AFP that at least four people were killed in the Zambezia province (centre), which is open to the Mozambique Canal. But the balance sheet is likely to rise, as information gets through with difficulty due to communications being cut.
The port city of Kilimani (center), about 40 kilometers from where the cyclone hit, remains largely cut off from the rest of the world: roads, water and electricity are cut off in some places, according to Guy Taylor, a UNICEF spokesperson at the scene reached by phone. , and many people are missing, according to the authorities. “The emergency shelters have been overwhelmed, because the number of people affected has been higher than expected,” Louisa Meeke, head of the Office of National Management, told AFP.
Then the cyclone, which was accompanied by strong winds and heavy rains at night from Sunday to Monday, moved towards neighboring Malawi, causing large floods and mudslides.
Schools in the country, which are among the poorest in the world, have been closed in much of the south, and most of the bodies were found in the Blantyre region (south), Malawi’s economic capital, according to local police.
“Rescue operations are still underway, but are being hampered by the continuous rains,” spokeswoman Beatrice Mikwa told AFP.
Richard Dua, 38, a government employee, told AFP that the waters rose suddenly in the middle of the night.
At 03:00 GMT (05:00 local time), he received a phone call: Five of his family members who live in the town have been taken away. “They were found,” he said. He has to go to the morgue. Bodies were found downstream, believed to be his relatives. The national carrier, Malawi Airlines, has canceled all flights to Blantyre until further notice. Freddy, who has now claimed about 100 lives, should return to sea within the week and weaken as expected.
The phenomenon, which formed off Australia and reached storm stage in early February, has been raging in the Indian Ocean for 35 days. It passed off the French islands of Reunion and Mauritius causing limited damage there. Several storms or cyclones cross the southwest Indian Ocean each year during the November-April hurricane season.