West News Wire: According to authorities in Malawi, Mozambique, and Madagascar, the number of fatalities caused by the unusually long-lasting Tropical Storm Freddy in southeast Africa has increased to 522.
The number of fatalities increased to 438 on Saturday, according to disaster management officials in Malawi, the country that was most severely affected by the cyclone. Lazarus Chakwera, the president of Malawi, announced a 14-day period of national mourning on Thursday.
There are hundreds of evacuation centers set up across the nation for survivors, with 345,000 people impacted by the severe rains, floods, and landslides, and tens of thousands of people left homeless in Malawi.
Southeast Africa was left devastated by the cyclone. Madagascar, an island nation, as well as neighboring Mozambique have been impacted.
In Mozambique, at least 67 people died, according to President Filipe Nyusi, with 50,000 more displaced.
It is expected that the death toll in both nations will continue to climb. At least 17 people were killed in the island nation of Madagascar.
Cyclone Freddy dissipated over land late Wednesday after it made a second landfall in Mozambique and then Malawi over the weekend and caused mass devastation in several regions, including Malawi’s financial capital, Blantyre.
“It will certainly be at least a few more days before a bigger dent is made in terms of rescuing people in places like this, which have been very difficult to reach up until now,” according to reporters.
Freddy first made landfall on February 21 in Madagascar. From there, the storm moved on to Mozambique and then back across the Indian Ocean. On March 11, it reached Mozambique for the second time and then moved on to Malawi.
“A lot of areas are inaccessible, restricting movement of assessment and humanitarian teams and life-saving supplies,” said Paul Turnbull, the World Food Program’s director in Malawi. “The true extent of the damage will only be revealed once assessments have been concluded.”
Both nations were already facing a cholera outbreak before the cyclone hit and there are fears that the flooding could worsen the spread of water-borne diseases. Mozambique was also dealing with Freddy’s first battering and floods earlier in the year.
Scientists say human-caused climate change has worsened cyclone activity, making them wetter, more intense and more frequent.
Cyclone Freddy has ravaged southern Africa since late February when it pummeled Mozambique, Madagascar and Réunion. It then looped back on to the mainland after regaining strength over the Mozambique Channel.
The World Meteorological Organization has convened an expert panel to determine whether Cyclone Freddy has broken the record for the longest-ever cyclone in recorded history.
Southern Africa is currently in cyclone season, which can bring rain and severe storms until March or April.