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Africa: Cyclone Freddy leaves over 400 dead, around 88,000 displaced

  • Around 88,000 people are still displaced and parts of the region remain inaccessible
  • Malawi's president, Lazarus Chakwera, has declared a 14-day national mourning period
  • Hundreds of people have been moved to camps but food and clean water is still scarce

17 Mar 2023
Africa: Cyclone Freddy leaves over 400 dead, around 88,000 displaced

Tropical Cyclone Freddy, which has now died down, has killed more than 400 people in Africa's Malawi, Mozambique and Madagascar since it first made landfall in late February. Cyclone Freddy dissipated over land late on Wednesday, but weather centers warned that the country was still vulnerable to flooding and landslides.

At least 225 people have been killed in southern Malawi, including the financial capital Blantyre, officials said. Around 88,000 people are still displaced and parts of the region remain inaccessible. Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera declared 14 days of national mourning. In Mozambique, authorities said at least 53 people had been killed since late Saturday, with 50,000 others still displaced.

“Roads and bridges have been swept away, cutting communities off from much-needed support. Houses and homes have been destroyed and families have been left out in the cold," said Mathew Pickard, regional director for southern Africa at the humanitarian organization CARE International. "As rescue efforts continue, the death toll is expected to rise."

Hundreds of people have been moved to camps, but food and clean water are still scarce, said Andrew Mavala, executive director of the Malawi Elderly Network, with dozens of elderly people unsure how to recover. In Malawi and Mozambique, where cholera epidemics were already underway when Cyclone Freddy hit, deaths from the disease and other waterborne diseases are also expected to rise.

Meteorologists say the cyclone is exceptional in its duration and has characteristics consistent with climate change warnings. "It's been an incredibly long-lasting storm. We're seeing it from today's satellite imagery and it's dissipated over the last couple of days," Randall Cerveny of the World Meteorological Organization told AFP.

Roxy Mathew Koll, a climatologist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, said the warm ocean "is a key aspect contributing to the rapid intensification of cyclones". "Cyclone Freddy has undergone rapid intensification seven times in its lifetime," he said.

The World Meteorological Organization has convened an expert panel to determine whether it has broken the record for the longest cyclone in recorded history, set by the 31-day Hurricane John in 1994. The assessment will take at least two months.

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