After Hurricane Freddy passed

Rescue teams race against time to find survivors in Malawi

  • Individuals block a street flooded with great difficulty by the hurricane. A.B

  • Residents are trying to extract what can be recovered from the remains of their house destroyed by the cyclone. A.B

  • Rescue operations continue. AFP

  • During the evacuation of one of the injured. A.B


Rescuers continued operations yesterday to try to find survivors in Malawi, while life is gradually returning to normal in the city of Blantyre after being hit hard by Cyclone Freddy, which killed about 200 people in the south of the country.

Freddy hit the southern African region at the end of February, killing 17 people, but in an unusual event, he returned to hit the same place in early March, killing at least 190 people in Malawi and 21 in Mozambique, according to authorities.

The army and police are deployed to affected areas of Malawi as rescue operations continue to evacuate people trapped in water and mud. Malawi Red Cross spokesman Felix Wachone told AFP: "Flooding is the biggest problem."

"The destruction is immense. Reaching stranded people is a challenge due to collapsing bridges and high water levels," he said, adding that aid workers had evacuated people who had taken refuge in trees or rooftops.

President Lazarus Shawquera, who returned home on Tuesday after attending a UN conference in Qatar, is due to inspect the affected areas on Wednesday. "I arrived in a disaster-stricken country," he said in a statement.

Some 59,20 people were affected by the cyclone, which displaced some <>,<> people in the country, some of whom sought refuge in schools and churches.

I buried them in the mud

At one makeshift shelter, 24-year-old Alabo Weizmann told AFP he was still looking for four members of his family who had been "buried in the mud".

In the shantytown of Chilopoe, near Blantyre, whose brick and mud houses were swept through muddy floods, markets and shops reopened yesterday morning.

Mini bus driver Daoud Chitumba, 27, explained that he needs to work to support his family: "I have two young daughters and duties. We have to rebuild our lives."

Very heavy rains have fallen in recent days, causing flooding and landslides that claimed lives, but the rain stopped yesterday morning.

Two days ago in the same slum, families and aid workers sometimes searched the mud with their hands, hoping to find their relatives or at least their bodies.

Fadila Njolomula, 19, said: "There are bodies in the ocean. Everyone is lost soon." She said two people were swept away by a torrent of mud on Tuesday as they tried to retrieve bodies.

The cyclone formed off the coast of Australia in early February and has been hitting the Indian Ocean region for 37 days. The phenomenon's extraordinary length makes it the longest hurricane in history, according to meteorologists. Tropical Cyclone John lasted 31 days in 1994.

Cyclone Freddy traversed more than 10,21 kilometers from east to west of the Indian Ocean. It first made landfall in Madagascar on February 17 before hitting Mozambique. That day, <> people were killed.

The cyclone returned, albeit with less momentum, with winds of 200 kilometers per hour, meteorologists said. Recent forecasts suggest Freddie will fade on land but could continue to bring heavy rains in the coming days.

The southwestern Indian Ocean is hit by tropical storms and cyclones several times a year during the cyclone season, which runs from November to April.

Some 59,20 people were affected by the cyclone, which displaced some <>,<> people, some of whom sought refuge in schools and churches.