At least 225 people have lost their lives in southern Malawi after a record-breaking storm ravaged the region.
“There are many casualties — either wounded, missing, or dead and the numbers will only increase in the coming days,” Guilherme Botelho, an emergency project coordinator for Doctors Without Borders, told AP News.
Tropical Cyclone Freddy is the longest-lasting storm in recorded history, as The Dallas Express reported previously. It raged for five weeks and four days before finally dissipating on March 15. It struck the southeastern part of Africa hard, making landfall twice.
Malawi, which was already in the midst of a severe outbreak of cholera, was hit during Freddy’s second landfall last weekend.
The storm’s strong winds caused extensive damage to infrastructure, buildings, and homes. An estimated 88,000 people have been displaced, per AP News.
Rescue efforts continue as the torrential rains have ceased, while floodwaters have yet to recede both in parts of Malawi and in neighboring Mozambique.
There continues to be a high risk of landslides and more flooding, as rain from the upland drains into areas downstream.
Commissioner Charles Kalemba of the Department of Disaster Management Affairs told CNN that, in southern Malawi, a number of places were flooded and roads and bridges were cut off.
“Visibility is almost zero. Electricity is off and also network is a problem. It’s becoming more and more dire,” he added, noting that rescue operations and machinery cannot reach certain areas.
The township of Chilobwe, located near the southern city of Blantyre, was severely impacted by the cyclone, resulting in over 30 fatalities and numerous individuals still unaccounted for as search and rescue operations persist.
On March 13, rescue workers were seen combing through the debris with shovels and bare hands looking for survivors, per CNN.
Dorothy Wachepa, a mother of four who is 39 years old, told CNN that she lost everything to the cyclone. Wachepa launched a small-scale vegetable business after the death of her husband in 2014. She had been using it to provide for her children, but it is now gone.
Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera spoke of the devastation of seeing entire families wiped out by the storm during a mass funeral held on March 15, per Reuters.
Citing a need for clothing, food, and shelter, Chakwera also called on the international community for support.
“We are using hope as our currency to encourage those that have survived that we will not leave them alone,” the president said, per Reuters. “[We] are trusting you, as our international neighbours to come through so Malawians can continue with that hope.”