Hundreds dead after Cyclone Freddy devastates Malawi and Mozambique

Hundreds of people have died in Malawi and neighboring Mozambique after one of the longest and strongest tropical storms on record devastated part of southern Africa.

Malawian authorities struggled to conduct search and rescue operations on Thursday after Cyclone Freddy swept away villages, destroyed power lines and caused extensive damage to Blantyre, the country’s second-largest city.

Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera declared a two-week official mourning for the “national tragedy” that followed the country’s deadliest cholera outbreak that killed more than a thousand people.

At least 225 people in Malawi died in the cyclone, which displaced more than 80,000 people, the government said. Dozens of people have been killed in Mozambique.

Cyclone Freddy has put the threat to southern Africa from stronger storms and intense rains linked to climate change back into the spotlight.

The tropical storm hit Madagascar and Mozambique after a prolonged build-up since it first struck off the coast of Australia in early February. It made landfall again over the weekend, hitting Mozambique before hitting Malawi.

Map showing the course of Cyclone Freddy

According to the United Nations World Meteorological Organization, Freddy accumulated the most energy of any cyclone recorded in the southern hemisphere during his long pregnancy. The agency is checking whether it also broke the record for the world’s longest-lasting tropical storm. It is one of the few cyclones in recorded history to have crossed the entire breadth of the Indian Ocean.

Scientists have warned that powerful cyclones will hit southern Africa more frequently as climate change warms the waters of the Indian Ocean, leaving more heat to generate stronger storms.

“Climate change increases risk in places where tropical cyclones are already affecting agriculture, infrastructure, livelihoods and life,” the World Weather Attribution project said in a study of the increase in cyclone activity in southern Africa.

Investment in early warning systems has been made across the region following Cyclone Idai in 2019, which killed more than 1,000 people in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

However, many have pointed to the absence of the Malawian military in the rescue effort this week, particularly the lack of helicopters after most of the affected areas were cut off by washed away roads and destroyed bridges.

“We have been totally abandoned. where is the military We don’t need food, we need helicopters to rescue people who are trapped,” one man said in a viral social media video. Malawi’s defense forces said they had deployed planes to the affected regions.

Guilherme Botelho, coordinator of the Médecins Sans Frontières emergency project in Blantyre, said: “The situation is very dire. There are many casualties, either wounded, missing or dead, and the numbers will only increase in the coming days.”

African nations agreed at the UN COP27 summit last year on a so-called Loss and Damage Fund to fund mitigating the ravages of climate change on the continent with the lowest historical CO2 emissions. But they remain angered by broken Western promises to provide climate protection funds. Hundreds dead after Cyclone Freddy devastates Malawi and Mozambique

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