March 21, 2023

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Survivors of trauma after Hurricane Freddy passes 300 dead in Malawi, Mozambique

BLANTYRE (Reuters) – The last thing Lukiya Akemo remembers is the floodwaters that hit her village near Mount Such earlier this week when Tropical Cyclone Freddy swept through southern Malawi.

Next thing I knew, she woke up in the hospital, her head wrapped in bandages and her neck in a brace.

“I saw a lot of water and some people washing. Then I don’t know what happened. I don’t know who brought me here,” Akimo, 35, said from a bed at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in the city of Blantyre.

A nurse told Reuters it was not known if any of her family members survived.

Tropical Cyclone Freddy has killed more than 300 people in Malawi, Mozambique and Madagascar since it first made landfall last month, and the death toll is expected to rise as authorities continue to assess damage and count deaths in hard-to-reach areas that have isolated them. floods.

The country’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Climate Change said in a statement that the storm has now abated, but heavy rains are expected to continue in parts of Malawi and are likely to cause more flooding around lakeshore areas.

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In Mozambique, some villages have been completely cut off since the cyclone made landfall for the second time on Saturday.

“We have mobilized boats and other means to search for and rescue people. There are a lot of communities that are stranded,” said Paulo Thomas, a spokesman for Mozambique’s disaster relief agency.

“After this time, they are starving and need proper food and medical assistance,” he said.

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Government figures say at least 53 people have been killed in Mozambique and 225 in Malawi since the weekend. The storm had already killed about 27 people in Madagascar and Mozambique before hitting Mozambique again.

Malawian President Lazarus Shakwera visited the Queen Elizabeth Hospital on Thursday, where he prayed for flood victims. The storm injured at least 700 people in Malawi at last count.

As the rain continued, some had to bury their dead.

In the village of Matushira in southern Malawi, men stood in freshly dug graves that filled up like puddles, scooping up water with buckets so they could lower chests into crates.

While electricity began to return to Malawi on Thursday, many places affected by the storm still lack running water, including Blantyre, the second largest city.

Some Blantyre residents said they wish they had heeded warnings to flee before the hurricane hit, but did not understand the gravity and had nowhere to go.

“It was very difficult for people to really understand what was happening before this storm. The government sent the messages but nothing happened after that,” said Blantyre resident Lujasiano Mesoya. “I am lucky to be alive.”

Freddy is one of the longest lasting tropical cyclones ever recorded and one of the deadliest cyclones in Africa in recent years.

Additional reporting by Tom Gibb and Frank Ferry in Blantyre and Manuel Mucari in Maputo; Additional reporting by Karen du Plessis in Johannesburg. Writing by Nelly Beaton; Editing by Alexander Winning, Bradley Perrett, and Sharon Singleton

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