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Rescuers search for cyclone survivors in Malawi

BLANTYRE, Malawi: Rescue workers tried to reach survivors in Malawi’s battered town of Blantyre on Wednesday after Cyclone Freddy battered southern Africa for a second time, triggering floods and landslides that have killed more than 200 people.

Weather conditions were expected to improve as the storm dissipated after days of torrential rain over land, but flood levels remained high in some areas, hampering emergency response.

“We found people in the trees, on rooftops or higher places,” Malawi Red Cross spokesman Felix Washoni told AFP.

“It’s a challenge to reach them, the water is high and bridges are broken.”

Freddy returned to Southeast Africa over the weekend for the second time in less than three weeks, leaving a trail of death and destruction in his wake.

Malawi’s government said at least 190 people were killed, 584 injured and 37 missing, while authorities in neighboring Mozambique reported 21 dead and 24 injured.

Rescuers warned more casualties were to be expected as they searched devastated neighborhoods for survivors, though hopes were fading.

“Four people from my family are still missing as they are buried in the mud,” said 24-year-old Alabu Wiseman, from a school-turned-emergency shelter in Malawi.

The government said the army and police were conducting search and rescue operations that the Red Cross said would continue for at least two more days, the Red Cross said.

Many died as mudslides washed away homes in the southern city of Blantyre, the country’s commercial capital.

Across Malawi, nearly 59,000 people have been affected and more than 19,000 have been displaced, many of whom have now taken refuge in schools and churches.

“Devastated Nation”

Markets and shops reopened in Blantyre on Wednesday.

“I have two little daughters to support,” Daud Chitumba, 27, a minibus conductor, told AFP as he went to work at a local bus depot.

His home was among dozens swept away by a mudslide in Chilobwe parish.

“We have to rebuild our lives and it starts with picking up the little bits. So I have to come to work and try to do whatever it takes to move forward,” Chitumba said.

President Lazarus Chakwera, who returned to Malawi on Tuesday after attending a UN conference in Qatar, was scheduled to visit the affected areas on Wednesday.

“We have arrived in a devastated nation,” he said in a statement, welcoming the volunteers’ relief effort.

Some complained that state aid was slow in coming.

“We feel abandoned here. Just yesterday we lost two more people who went with the mudslide while helping to dig up the bodies. People are hungry and tired,” said Fadila Njolomole, 19.

“My best friend, her brother, sister and mother got away with the mudslide and their bodies were not found. It’s devastating. You can’t even mourn.”

Cyclone Freddy slammed into landlocked Malawi early Monday after sweeping through Mozambique over the weekend.

The storm unofficially broke the World Meteorological Organization’s benchmark as the longest-ever tropical cyclone, set in 1994 for a 31-day storm named John.

Freddy became a named storm on February 6, made landfall in Madagascar on February 21, and swept across the island before reaching Mozambique on February 24, killing nearly two dozen people in both countries and affecting nearly 400,000 people .

It then returned to the Indian Ocean and gathered renewed strength over the warm waters, then reversed course to come back much stronger, and tackled wind gusts of up to 200 kilometers per hour (125 mph).

Meteorologists say cyclones that sweep across the Indian Ocean are very rare – the last one occurred in 2000 – and that Freddy’s loopback was even more extraordinary.

Source: Crypto News Deutsch

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