Blantyre, Malawi — A Relentless Cyclone Freddy which is hitting southern Africa has killed more than 100 people after hitting the continent for the second time on Saturday evening, authorities in the hard-hit countries of Malawi and Mozambique have confirmed. The Red Cross on Monday put the total death toll from the week-long storm at nearly 100, with several deaths also reported on the island of Madagascar.
CBS News’ Sarah Carter said a state of disaster had been declared in Malawi, where authorities said on Tuesday that at least 99 people had been confirmed dead from the cyclone since it struck for the first time. Police spokesman Peter Kalaya said rescue teams were completely overwhelmed and residents in affected areas were forced to dig through the mud with their bare hands to find survivors.
At least 85 people have been confirmed dead in Blantyre, Malawi’s biggest commercial city, and schools across the country were expected to remain closed until at least Wednesday. The Malawi deaths include five members of the same family who died in Ndirande township in Blantyre after damaging winds and heavy rains from Freddy demolished their home, according to a police report. A three-year-old child who was “trapped in the rubble” is also among the victims, with his parents among those missing, authorities also said.
“We suspect this figure will increase as we try to compile a nationwide report from our south west, south east and east police offices which cover the affected areas,” Kalaya said.
The cyclone battered Mozambique and Malawi over the weekend and into Monday. This is the second time that the record hurricane – which has been causing destruction in southern Africa since late February – has made landfall in mainland Africa. It also hit the island states of Madagascar and Réunion as it crossed the ocean.
The cyclone intensified a record seven times and has the highest accumulated cyclonic energy on record, or ACE, which is a measure of how much energy a cyclone has released over time. Freddy has recorded more energy in its lifetime than a typical hurricane season in the United States.
Freddy first developed near Australia in early February and ranged throughout the southern Indian Ocean. It will be the longest tropical cyclone on record. The UN weather agency has convened a panel of experts to determine whether it has broken the record set by Hurricane John in 1994 by 31 days.
Freddy made landfall on Saturday at the seaport of Quelimane in Mozambique where there were reports of damage to homes and farmland, although the extent of the destruction is not yet clear. Telecommunications and other critical infrastructure continue to be cut across much of the affected Zambezia province, hampering relief and other humanitarian efforts.
The regional tropical cyclone monitoring center of the French meteorological agency Météo-France in Réunion warned on Monday that “the heaviest rains will continue over the next 48 hours” as Freddy continues. Mozambique’s central provinces and Malawi have been identified as particularly vulnerable to “floods and landslides in mountainous areas” by weather watchers.
Much of the damage suffered in Malawi is to houses built in areas prohibited by law, such as in mountainous areas or near rivers where they struggle with landslides, unprecedented flooding and rivers overflowing their banks. bed. The cyclone forced the Malawian government to suspend schools in 10 districts in its southern region “as a precautionary measure”.
Freddy should weaken and go back to sea on Wednesday, according to Météo-France.
Amnesty International on Tuesday called for international support for the hardest hit African countries – both for immediate relief and, in the longer term, to offset the damage caused by climate change in countries with carbon footprints. among the lowest on the planet. .
“The Southern African Development Community and the international community must mobilize the necessary resources to help rescue efforts in the countries hardest hit by Cyclone Freddy,” the human rights organization said. UK-based man in a statement, adding that “the focus must be on saving lives and providing relief in a way that meets human rights standards, for those who have lost their homes and their livelihoods.
“Affected countries must also be compensated for losses and damage caused by the cyclone,” Amnesty said. “Mozambique and Malawi are among the countries least responsible for climate change, but they are facing the full brunt of intensifying storms due to global warming caused mainly by carbon emissions from the world’s richest countries. “.