The desperate cries of a child can be heard until shortly before the end of the video. An already damaged simple house can be seen, surrounded by raging masses of water. Then the side walls give way. Before the eyes of the observers, the house disappears, the floods carry away the roof, the child is no longer audible. A rescue attempt was too dangerous, commented Father Petros Mwale from Malawi, who published the video on Twitter.
Political correspondent for Africa based in Cape Town.
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Cyclone Freddy has led to shocking scenes in the south of Malawi and caused severe devastation. The masses of mud and water destroyed houses and villages, bridges were washed away. The economic metropolis of Blantyre with about one million inhabitants is also affected. A spokesman for the Red Cross told the AFP news agency that some residents had tried to get to safety on trees and roofs. According to President Lazarus Chakwera, more than 200 deaths have been reported and more than 83,000 people have lost their homes. "Malawi's dark hour," wrote The Daily Times. The government set a 14-day national mourning.
Cyclone Freddy had already reached Madagascar on 21 February and the coast of Mozambique three days later. Malawi was largely spared at that time. But then the storm surprisingly drew a loop and returned to the African mainland last weekend with even greater force. First he swept over Mozambique, then he reached Malawi. Unofficially, it is considered the longest tropical storm in history. There was also severe devastation in Mozambique and Madagascar.
The crops are destroyed
The consequences in Malawi can hardly be estimated. The country and its inhabitants are being thrown back years in development, says Claudia Plock, programme manager at Welthungerhilfe. The storm had arrived in the "lean period" before the harvests, in which many families are struggling to get by and wait for the harvest. Due to the floods, complete harvests have now been destroyed in many places. Since March last year, cholera has also been rampant in Malawi. The World Health Organization speaks of the fiercest outbreak in the history of the country. More than 1200 people have already died of the disease.
The people needed not only a roof over their heads, blankets, cooking pots, clean drinking water and sanitation, but also food and seeds, the aid organization said. More than seven million people in Malawi are not adequately nourished, and almost 40 percent of children under the age of five are malnourished.
Raw materials play almost no role in Malawi, the country depends mainly on international aid and remittances from citizens who work as gardeners or domestic helpers in South Africa, for example. Agriculture is the country's most important industry, tea and tobacco are exported. However, the majority of them are small farmers who generate only low yields due to a lack of high-quality seeds and fertilizer. Since the outbreak of the Ukraine war, they have also been hit by global fertilizer shortages and rising prices.
On Wednesday and Thursday, Malawian President Chakwera visited the affected regions as well as injured people in hospitals and attended a funeral of numerous victims. He appealed to the international community to help deal with a "national tragedy." The extent of the devastation exceeds the "means available to us". It is already the third cyclone within 13 months and further evidence of the reality of climate change. The Malawian government announced disaster aid equivalent to 1.4 million euros.
As can be heard from the regions, anger is growing among the volunteers there because state aid has so far failed to materialize. Since the middle of this week, the cyclone has weakened, but large parts of the region are still flooded.