Cyclone Freddy caused at least 66 deaths and could be the longest storm in history: it began in February

A relentless Cyclone Freddy currently battering southern Africa has killed at least 66 people in Malawi and Mozambique since it struck the continent for a second time on Saturday night, authorities in both countries confirmed.

At least 39 people in the Blantyre mall in Malawi have been killed and several others are missing or injured, the city’s chief executive told The Associated Press on Monday. Mozambique authorities reported that five people have been killed in the country since Saturday.

FILE PHOTO: Satellite imagery shows Tropical Cyclone Freddy approaching Madagascar in this undated satellite image obtained on February 20, 2023. NASA Worldview/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo (NASA/)

The deaths in Malawi include five members of a single family who died in Blantyre’s Ndirande township after Freddy’s destructive winds and heavy rains demolished their home, according to a police report. A three-year-old girl who was left “trapped in the rubble” He is also among the victims, and his parents are among the missing, authorities said.

The Malawi Red Cross has reported that the local government had registered as of Monday night (local time) a total of 66 fatalities and 93 injuries. Organization staff collaborate in search operations and care for the victims of this cyclone.

At least 44 dead as Cyclone Freddy hits Malawi and Mozambique
Freddy is expected to weaken and return to sea on Wednesday, according to Météo-France. Credit: AP (AP/)

“We suspect that this figure will increase as we are trying to compile a national report from our south-west, south-east and east police offices covering the affected areas,” Malawi police spokesman Peter Kalaya told the AP.

The cyclone hit Mozambique and Malawi during the weekend and until Monday. It is the second time that the record-breaking cyclone, which has been wreaking destruction in southern Africa since late February, has made landfall on mainland Africa. It also hit the island states of Madagascar and Réunion as it traversed the ocean.

The cyclone has intensified a record seven times and has the highest accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) ever recorded, which is a measure of how much energy a cyclone has released over time. Freddy recorded more energy during its lifetime than an entire typical US hurricane season.

At least 44 dead as Cyclone Freddy hits Malawi and Mozambique
A man carries the parts of a bed in the middle of the flood through the streets of Quelimane, Mozambique (EFE/EPA/ANDRE CATUEIRA) (ANDRE CATUEIRA/)
At least 44 dead as Cyclone Freddy hits Malawi and Mozambique
The government suspects that the number of people killed by the storm will rise. Credit: AP (AP/)

Freddy first hatched near Australia in early February and traveled throughout the southern Indian Ocean. It is destined to be the longest tropical cyclone ever recorded. The UN weather agency convened a panel of experts to determine if it has broken the record set by Hurricane John in 1994 of 31 days.

Freddy made landfall in the Mozambique seaport of Quelimane on Saturday, where there are reports of damage to homes and farmland, though the extent of the destruction is still unclear. Telecommunications and other essential infrastructure are still cut across much of the affected Zambezia province, impeding rescue and other humanitarian efforts.

At least 44 dead as Cyclone Freddy hits Malawi and Mozambique
Damage at the Quelimane airport, in Mozambique, where water has penetrated the facilities (AP) (AP /)
At least 44 dead as Cyclone Freddy hits Malawi and Mozambique
A flooded sidewalk in Quelimane does not prevent people from venturing across it in search of food and other basic necessities in this Mozambique city (EFE/EPA/ANDRE CATUEIRA) (ANDRE CATUEIRA/)

The regional tropical cyclone monitoring center of the French meteorological agency Météo-France in Réunion warned on Monday that “heaviest rains will continue for the next 48 hours” while Freddy advances. The central provinces of Mozambique and Malawi have been identified as especially vulnerable to “flooding and landslides in mountainous areas” by weather monitors.

At least 44 dead as Cyclone Freddy hits Malawi and Mozambique
A tree crosses a street in Quelimane, Mozambique, Sunday, March 12, 2023. Record-breaking Cyclone Freddy made a second landfall in Mozambique late Saturday, battering the southern African nation with heavy rain and disrupting transportation and telecommunications services. (AP Photo) (AP /)

Much of the damage experienced in Malawi is to houses built in areas prohibited by law, such as mountainous regions or near rivers where they battle landslides, record flooding, and overflowing rivers. The cyclone has forced the Malawi government to suspend schools in 10 districts in its southern region “as a precautionary measure.”

Freddy is expected to weaken and return to sea only on Wednesdayaccording to Météo-France.

(with information from AP and EP)

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