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Malawi, Mozambique Race to Rescue Survivors as Cyclone Toll Rises Above 270

BLANTYRE/MAPUTO—Malawi and Mozambique were racing to rescue survivors from Tropical Cyclone Freddy on Wednesday as the death toll rose above 270 from one of the most powerful storms recorded in the southern hemisphere.

Freddy tore through southern Africa for the second time in a month over the weekend and was still causing heavy rain on Wednesday, hampering relief efforts.

Malawi’s disaster management department said in a statement that the death toll from the second hit stood at 225, up from 190 on Tuesday, with 707 people injured and 41 missing.

In neighboring Mozambique at least 21 people had died as of Tuesday, according to the disaster agency.

The overall death toll since Freddy first made landfall in February is now estimated at more than 270 in Malawi, Mozambique, and Madagascar.

Mozambique cyclone
Branches of trees sway as cyclone Freddy hits, in Quelimane, Zambezia, Mozambique, on March 12, 2023. (UNICEF Mozambique/2023/Alfredo Zuniga/Handout via Reuters)

Malawi’s army, police, the local Red Cross, and other aid agencies were conducting search and rescue operations, with commercial hub Blantyre one of the areas hardest-hit.

Severe flooding and mudslides have swept away homes, broken bridges, and destroyed roads. Heavy rain has continued to batter the Mozambican port of Quelimane and surrounding areas.

“Our priority now, as we take stock to what really occurred, is to search and rescue people in most devastated areas. We’ve rescued thousands but thousands more are still unreachable,” said disaster agency spokesperson Paulo Tomas by telephone from Quelimane.

Power supplies in Malawi have been severely disrupted by the storm after the national electricity generation company had to shut down major hydroelectric power stations.

By Frank Phiri and Manuel Mucari

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