BLANTER, Malawi – A relentlessMore than 100 people were killed Saturday night after it hit the southern African continent for a second time, authorities in the hard-hit countries of Malawi and Mozambique confirmed. The Red Cross on Monday put the overall death toll from the week-long storm at around 100, with several deaths also reported on the island of Madagascar.
CBS News’ Sarah Carter says a disaster has been declared in Malawi, where authorities said Tuesday that at least 99 people have been confirmed dead since the cyclone first struck. Police spokesman Peter Kalaya said rescue teams were completely overwhelmed and residents of 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 largest commercial city, and schools across the country will remain closed until at least Wednesday. The deaths in Malawi included five members of a single family who died in Ndirande town in Blantyre after Freddie’s destructive winds and heavy rains destroyed their home, according to police reports. A three-year-old child who was “trapped in the wreckage” was among the victims, while her parents were also missing, authorities added.
“We suspect that this number will increase as we try to compile a national report from our South-West, South-East and East police offices that cover the affected areas,” Kalaya said.
The cyclone hit Mozambique and Malawi over the weekend and into Monday. This is the second time– which has been wreaking havoc in South Africa since late February – has made landfall on the African mainland. It also hit the island states of Madagascar and Reunion as it crossed the ocean.
The cyclone has intensified a record seven times and has the highest recorded accumulated cyclonic energy, or ACE, which is a measure of how much energy a cyclone has released over time. During its lifetime, Freddie recorded more strength than a typical US hurricane season.
Freddie first developed near Australia in early February and traveled throughout the southern Indian Ocean. It is set to be the longest-running tropical cyclone on record. The United Nations Meteorological Agency has convened an expert panel to determine whether the record set by Hurricane John in 1994 was broken by 31 days.
Freddie made landfall in the Mozambique port of Quilimane on Saturday with reports of damage to homes and farmland, although the extent of the destruction is not yet clear. Telecommunications and other essential infrastructure are still cut off in the affected Zambezia province, hampering rescue and other humanitarian efforts.
French weather agency Meteo-France’s regional tropical cyclone observatory in Reunion warned on Monday that the “heaviest rainfall will continue over the next 48 hours” as Freddie barrels on. Mozambique’s Central Province and Malawi have been identified by weather monitors as particularly vulnerable to “floods and landslides in mountainous areas”.
Most of the damage in Malawi has been in houses built in areas prohibited by law, such as in mountainous areas or near rivers where they are battling landslides, flash floods and rivers bursting their banks. The cyclone forced the Malawian government to suspend schools in 10 districts of its southern region “as a precautionary measure”.
Freddie is expected to weaken and move back out to sea on Wednesday, according to Meteo-France.
Amnesty International on Tuesday called for international support for the worst-affected African countries – both as immediate relief and in the long term, as compensation for damage caused by a changing climate in countries with some of the lowest carbon footprints on the planet. .
“The Southern African Development Community and the international community must mobilize the necessary resources to support rescue efforts in countries affected by Cyclone Freddie,” the UK-based human rights organization said in a statement, adding that “the focus must be on conservation . Living and providing relief in a manner consistent with human rights standards for those who have lost their homes and livelihoods.”
“Cyclone-affected countries must also pay compensation,” Amnesty said. “Mozambique and Malawi are among the countries least responsible for climate change, yet they are facing the full force of storms that are intensifying due to global warming driven by carbon emissions from the world’s richest nations.”