Cyclone Freddy subsides after battering Malawi, Mozambique
BLANTYRE, Malawi — Cyclone Freddy has dissipated since late last week after killing hundreds of people and displacing thousands in Mozambique and Malawi, although flooding remains a threat in both countries, a regional observatory said late Wednesday.
Local authorities say the cyclone has killed at least 225 people in Malawi’s southern region, including Blantyre, the country’s financial centre. Another 88,000 people were forced to leave their homes. In neighboring Mozambique, officials said at least 20 people had died since the storm made landfall in the port city of Quelimane on Saturday evening. More than 45,000 people are still living in shelters and about 1,300 square kilometers (800 square miles) are still under water, according to the EU’s Copernicus satellite system.
“There are many victims – either wounded, missing or dead, and the numbers will only increase in the coming days,” said Guilherme Botelho, emergency project coordinator for Doctors Without Borders. According to Botelho, there is a risk of a resurgence of the disease, “especially because the vaccination coverage in Blantyre is very poor”.
The aid organization has suspended outreach programs to protect staff against flash floods and landslides, but is supporting cyclone relief efforts at a local hospital.
Freddy was originally set to make landfall on Wednesday, but has since faded and is no longer a tropical cyclone, the UN weather observatory in Réunion said.
But even with the cyclone’s dispersal, the emergency will not end for many communities as rains from the highlands continue to flood downstream areas in the coming days,” said Lucy Mwangi, Malawi country director of the aid organization Concern Worldwide.
“Even rich countries that are considered advanced democracies could not have matched the scale of the devastation caused by the cyclone,” said Kim Yi Dionne, a political scientist at the University of California Riverside. Freddy accumulated more energy during his journey across the Indian Ocean. like an entire US hurricane season.
Yi Dionne said the extent of the damage was high despite Malawi’s disaster management agency having prepared and planned for “the challenges of our current climate crisis”.
According to scientists, climate change caused by industrialized countries pumping greenhouse gases into the air has worsened the activity of cyclones, made them more intense and more frequent. The recently ended La Nina, which affects weather worldwide, has also increased cyclonic activity in the region.
African nations, which account for just 4% of global warming emissions, “are once again paying the steepest price for climate change, including their own lives,” said Lynn Chiripampezi, head of Oxfam’s humanitarian program in South Africa.
Cyclone Freddy has wreaked havoc in southern Africa since late February, and last month lashed Mozambique and the islands of Madagascar and Réunion.
“Freddy is quite an exceptional weather phenomenon,” Anne-Claire Fontan, the World Meteorological Organization’s tropical cyclone science officer, told The Associated Press. Its longevity, distance traveled, number of power-ups and amount of accumulated energy over time were extraordinary, he said.
He added that the second Mozambique landing “is explained by the presence of two competing controlling influences. This is not uncommon.”
Freddy first developed near Australia in early February. The United Nations Meteorological Agency has convened a panel of experts to determine whether the record for the longest cyclone in history, set by the 31-day Hurricane John in 1994, has been broken.
Alexandre Nhampossa and Tom Gould contributed to this report from Maputo, Mozambique. Kabukuru reported from Mombasa, Kenya.
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