Cyclone Freddy kills 190 in Malawi, rains complicate rescue efforts

BLANTYRE, March 14 (Reuters) – Cyclone Freddie, one of the most powerful storms ever recorded in the southern hemisphere, killed 190 people in Malawi after tearing through South Africa for the second time in a month, Malawi’s government said on Tuesday.

The district around Blantyre, the commercial hub, was hit hardest. Heavy floods and rains have damaged roads and bridges, hampering relief efforts.

Freddie has left a trail of destruction in Mozambique, where it made landfall over the weekend. More than 22,000 people fled their homes and took shelter there.

The latest death toll in Malawi is up from 99 reported on Monday, the Department of Disaster Management Affairs said.

It said in a statement that 584 people have been injured and 37 are still missing as heavy rains continue to lash the country.

Grieving families waited to collect the dead bodies of relatives from the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital mortuary in Blantyre.

Aid organizations have reported that it is difficult to get relief for the victims of landslides caused by heavy rains.

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“This is a challenging operation,” said Estere Soga, an emergency specialist for the UN children’s agency UNICEF in Malawi.

“People are trying to find a place to stay there for a while.”

Freddie hit central Mozambique on Saturday, tearing roofs off buildings and causing widespread flooding around the port of Kulimane before moving inland towards Malawi.

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The full extent of the damage and loss of life in Mozambique is still unclear, but the total death toll is now estimated at more than 220 in Malawi, Mozambique and Madagascar.

Alcidio Benjamim, the provincial manager of the humanitarian organization ForAfrika in Mozambique, told Reuters that Sofala and Zambezia provinces had been worst hit in the latest hit. He said as of Monday, 22,000 people or 4,000 families had taken shelter in shelters in Zambezi province.

“We expect (that) number to increase because there are inaccessible areas due to flooding. Some vehicles cannot pass through the roads,” Benjamin said.

Freddie could again sweep across the Zambezia province, bringing high winds and rain. “We’ll know by tomorrow morning if it’s more serious or not,” Benjamin added.

Reporting by Frank Phiri in Blantyre; Additional reporting by Carrion du Plessis in Johannesburg; By Bhargav Acharya and Alexander Winning; Editing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Angus McSwan

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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