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Cyclone Freddy returns killing 15 in Malawi, Mozambique – English News – Report by AFR

Fifteen people have died in Malawi and Mozambique as Cyclone Freddy hit the two countries with torrential rains and strong winds upon its return to southern Africa’s mainland, authorities said Monday. 

Police in Malawi said 11 people died in areas surrounding the southern city of Blantyre, where heavy rains triggered flooding as the cyclone made a comeback, just weeks after it first struck the continent. 

At least 16 more people were missing and four injured, according to a preliminary count, police said.

Four more people died in neighbouring Mozambique, local authorities said, as an assessment of the damage was underway after the storm made its second landfall in the country on Saturday.

Richard Duwa, 38, said his sister in law’s family was swept away by flash floods in Chilobwe, a township south of Blantyre.  

“We got a call from the neighbours at around five am to say that ‘your relations have been washed away by the rains’,” Duwa, a government clerk told AFP.

“Unfortunately, we have just recovered one body, a small boy, but the remaining four are not to be seen.” 

Earlier police said they found the body of a three-year-old girl after a water stream breached its banks washing away houses built along its course.

Malawi’s government ordered schools in ten southern districts to remain closed until Wednesday, with rains and winds expected to continue to batter the nation’s south. 

National carrier Malawi Airlines said all flights to Blantyre have been cancelled until further notice after an inbound plane ran into the bad weather mid-flight and was forced back to the capital Lilongwe.

“It was thought wise to return to Lilongwe,” said Malawi Airlines spokesman Only Taulo.

– Longest-lasting tropical cyclone? –

Freddy reached the landlocked country early Monday morning after sweeping through Mozambique at the weekend. 

In Mozambique, at least three people died in Namacura, a town in the central Zambezia province, according to district head Moura Xavier.

One more was reported dead at the weekend, after a house collapsed in the nearby district of Zalala. 

The death toll was expected to increase, as authorities worked to reach all affected areas.

“We are experiencing communication difficulties and this situation does not allow us to have reliable tolls,” said Health Minister Armindo Tiago.

Guy Taylor, a spokesman for the UN children’s agency UNICEF, said rains had abated on Monday but the hard-hit coastal city of Quelimane remained without access to clean running water.

Flooding affected parts of the city, he said. 

“There’s a lot of damage,” Taylor said by phone. “In the more rural areas, many houses are completely destroyed”.

According to the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Freddy, which formed off north-western Australia in the first week in February, was set to become the longest-lasting tropical cyclone on record.

It crossed the entire southern Indian Ocean and barrelled through Madagascar from February 21, crossing the island before reaching Mozambique on February 24.

Following what meteorologists describe as a “rare” loop trajectory, Freddy then headed back towards Madagascar before moving once more towards Mozambique.

During its first deadly visit to the country it affected about 166,000 people.

Upon its return it carried even stronger winds and rains, Taylor said.

“We are prioritising rescuing people and removing the lifeless bodies. We don’t have numbers,” said Andre Tazingua, a fire service commander in Zambezia.

“The most important thing is the assistance we are providing and we will continue to work.”

In total, Freddy has so far killed at least 42 people — 11 in Malawi, 14 in Mozambique and 17 in Madagascar.

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