More than 60 people have been killed by Cyclone Freddy and dozens injured in Malawi and Mozambique as it slammed into Southern Africa for the second time in a month.
Freddy is one of the strongest cyclones ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere and could be the longest-lasting tropical one, according to the World Meteorological Organization.
It pummelled central Mozambique on Saturday, ripping roofs off buildings and bringing widespread flooding around the port of Quelimane before moving inland towards Malawi, where it unleashed torrential rains that caused landslides.
In Malawi’s main commercial hub of Blantyre, the central hospital had received at least 60 bodies by early afternoon on Monday, Marion Pechayre, Doctors Without Borders country director, told the news agency Reuters, adding that about 200 injured people were being treated in the hospital.
The injuries were from falling trees, landslides and flash floods, she said. “A lot of [houses] are mud houses with tin roofs, so the roofs fall on people’s heads.”
The Red Cross said at least 66 people in Malawi have been killed, 93 have been injured and 16 were missing.
Police said rescue teams were looking for people in Chilobwe and Ndirande, two of the worst-affected townships in Blantyre.
Later on Monday, the president declared a state-of-disaster in several southern districts including Blantyre.
President Lazarus Chakwera “has noted with grave concern the devastation that Cyclone Freddy is currently bringing to most districts… and declared a state of disaster in the Southern region,” the presidency said a statement.
At least six people died in the Mozambique port town of Quelimane, which was struck hard by the cyclone, authorities told the public broadcaster on Monday.
The full extent of the damage and loss of life in Mozambique is not yet clear because power supplies and phone signals were cut off in some parts of the affected area.
Mozambique has seen more than a year’s worth of rainfall in the past four weeks, prompting concern that rivers could burst their banks and cause wide-scale flooding.
Malawi also has been battling the deadliest cholera outbreak in its history, and UN agencies have warned the situation could worsen because of Freddy.
Scientists say climate change is making tropical storms stronger as greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere and oceans become warmer. When warm seawater evaporates, heat energy is transferred to the atmosphere, generating more powerful storms.