Freddy caused death and devastation in Malawi. President Lazarus Chakwera on Wednesday appealed for international help to deal with the devastation of the cyclone, "a national tragedy", which has killed at least 225 people in the impoverished southern African country.

The head of state decreed two weeks of national mourning, with flags flown at half-mast during the first week. Cyclone Freddy "is the third in thirteen months to hit our country. Proof of the realities of climate change," he said in a televised speech.

A ceremony with 21 coffins lined up

Travelling earlier to Blantyre, the economic capital and epicentre of the disaster, he attended a ceremony for the victims. Dozens of mourners attended the rally at a school in Chilobwe township. Twenty-one coffins adorned with wreaths of flowers were lined up under a tent, protected from the fine and continuous rain. An emergency ministerial meeting authorized the release of 1.6 billion kwacha (1.44 million euros) for the affected populations. "But I can already tell you that this money will not be enough," the president stressed in his speech.

Of exceptional longevity, Freddy had already struck southern Africa at the end of February, killing 17 people, before going back the other way in early March. With less powerful winds but carrying torrential rains, the cyclone caused heavy flooding and deadly landslides in Malawi, a landlocked country where a state of disaster has been declared. The police and army have been deployed.

A feared jump in cholera cases

Dozens of people are still missing. President Chakwera pledged to "intensify" the research. More than 88,300 others are homeless. Schools and churches have been turned into emergency shelter. A total of 165 centres have been opened.

The destruction is "enormous," said Felix Washon, spokesman for the Malawi Red Cross Society. And collapsed bridges and still high water levels in some places complicate rescue operations. Survivors were found on trees and roofs. In Chilobwe, vulnerable brick and earth homes have been ravaged by massive mudslides. The NGO Doctors Without Borders, present on the ground, fears a jump in cholera cases in the country which is already fighting a deadly epidemic of this disease. According to the latest forecasts, Freddy is expected to dissipate on the land but the rains are likely to persist for several more days.

The cyclone also hit neighboring Mozambique, killing 63 people, according to the National Institute for Disaster Management. Ten people died during his first crossing of the country at the end of February.

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