Cyclone Freddy killed at least 190 people in Malawi

Cyclone Freddy hits Blantyre
Residents survey the damage caused by Cyclone Freddy in Chilobwe, Blantyre, Malawi, March 13, 2023. REUTERS/Eldson Chagara.

Cyclone Freddy, which hit southern Africa for the second time, caused at least 190 deaths in Malawi, where torrential rains triggered floods and landslides, according to a new government balance delivered this Tuesday (03.14.2023). The phenomenon had previously affected Madagascar and Mozambique.

“The death toll has risen from 99 to 190, with 584 injured and 37 missings,” the disaster management office said in a statement. Freddy, one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the southern hemisphere, has left a trail of destruction in Malawi, a country of 20 million people that borders Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia.

The phenomenon, which led President Lazarus Chakwera to declare a “state of disaster” in the Southern Region, forcibly displaced some 19,000 people in the most affected districts, according to the United Nations, including Nsanje, Chikwawa, Mulanje, Thyolo and Chiradzulu, as well as Blantyre and the city of the same name, the commercial capital and second city in the country, which registered at least 85 of the deaths.

Victims of climate change

Although weakened, the cyclone is still generating “heavy rainfall in interior Mozambique and southern Malawi,” according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), increasing the risk of flooding and landslides in the next few days. The United Nations assured that it was possible to avoid numerous deaths thanks to the early warnings issued by the authorities.

Freddy is already one of the longest-lasting cyclones and has had the longest trajectory in recent decades, covering more than 10,000 kilometers since it formed in northern Australia on February 4 and crossed the entire Indian Ocean to southern Africa.

The human rights organization Amnesty International (AI) lamented the disaster and called on the international community to compensate for the “loss and damage” to the countries affected. “Mozambique and Malawi are among the countries least responsible for climate change, but they are facing the full force of storms that are intensifying due to global warming driven, above all, by carbon emissions from wealthier nations,” said AI’s acting director for eastern and southern Africa, Tigere Chagutah.