Tropical Cyclone Freddy, which has shattered records as the strongest and longest-lasting storm in recorded history, hit southern Africa on Sunday.
Making landfall in Mozambique and Malawi on March 12, Freddy’s torrential rains and high winds caused widespread damage to houses and buildings. Coastal flooding and inland landslides were reported.
A total of 17 people have been confirmed dead so far in both countries.
As Peter Kalaya, a police spokesman in Malawi, told Reuters, these numbers are expected to rise as power outages have complicated rescue efforts.
This is the second time Freddy has struck southern Mozambique — home to over 171,000 people — this month.
According to a news release from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Freddy is a “very rare” storm, and its journey so far has been “incredible and dangerous.”
Freddy originated on February 6 off the coast of northwest Australia and traveled thousands of miles across the South Indian Ocean towards southeastern Africa.
Along the way, it affected the islands of Mauritius and La Réunion. The cyclone made landfall on the eastern coast of Madagascar on February 21 before hitting Mozambique a few days later. A total of 27 people were killed and thousands were left homeless.
After, it looped back out towards the Mozambique Channel, gathered energy from the warm waters, and made landfall again this past weekend.
Freddy has lasted 34 days as a tropical cyclone, releasing as much energy as the entire North Atlantic hurricane season on average, per the WMO. The previous record for the longest storm was Hurricane/Typhoon John, which lasted 31 days in 1994.
Freddy’s double hit has created a humanitarian crisis in Mozambique.
As Guy Taylor, the chief of advocacy, communications, and partnerships for the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, told Reuters, local aid agencies in the port of Quelimane, which was in the eye of the storm, have been overwhelmed by those in need.
“We saw a lot of destroyed buildings and clinics. People’s homes had their roofs torn off by the wind. Even before the cyclone hit we saw [localized] flooding,” Taylor explained.
In Malawi, a severe outbreak of cholera raging since early February had already left over 1,300 dead. The expected impact of flooding caused by Freddy on the spread of this and other waterborne diseases has agencies from the UN raising the alarm.
According to Météo-France La Réunion, Freddy will continue to affect Mozambique and Malawi with heavy rain but diminished winds while moving to the northeast. By Wednesday, the rain will let up and then Freddy will move out once again towards the Mozambique Channel, but in a much weaker state.
So unfortunate. These people are amongst the poorest in the world. God help these people.