Our area in Malawi experienced the full fury of Tropical Cyclone Freddy last week. The violent, deadly storm hit us on Saturday evening and kept raging till the following Wednesday, pouring 50cm of water onto saturated ground in just 72 hours, with wind speeds of up to165mph. The Gov. declared a “state of disaster”, schools were closed, electricity supply lost, buildings collapsed, areas flooded, roads and bridges were ripped apart, leaving over 500 dead, many injured and more still at risk of floods & mudslides. The World Meteorological Org. declared it to be one of the strongest and longest-lasting storms ever recorded.
Locally, many houses collapsed completely, others lost outside walls, roofs have caved in, water supplies are broken, and hundreds of toilets have been destroyed, especially challenging in the current cholera crisis. And this is the hungriest time of the year!
A friend, who lives just a couple of miles away, abandoned her home, and crouched outside under a rock in torrential rain all night with her animals and terrified villagers, as the mountain shook, hot water and mud flowed, land and boulders—some the size of cars— crashed down around her…...
A little further on, the Nkhulambe area was devastated. Our Senior Chief (tribal head, responsible for thousands) told us though some homes survived, whole houses were taken by mud/water and huge rocks. This was an area known for its verdant crops and rare goodsoil, backed up with a coveted irrigation scheme. Most of this land is now ruined and uncultivatable—some houses that still stand are immersed in sand up to 5ft. A hospital was swept away and 2 nurses and a soldier killed. One village, famous for its sweet potato harvest has gone completely, no-one survived. Fields of maize, rice and sweet potatoes were lost with land boundaries gone.
She told us locally10,500 families are affected, with thousands in 27 make-shift camps in schools and church buildings. All hungry, with broken houses, and most will have lost this-years maize when fields were washed away or covered in mud and sand. Apparently in our civic area (Phalombe East), 59 have died and another 217 are still missing. Most of the dead were children, under 15 years, trapped in the mud, unable to escape the water.
Though we’re just a small charity, being “on the ground” we were able to help immediately with emergency food, plastic sheeting and mosquito nets, but it seems we’re the only organisation supporting this distressed society out here in the remote areas. We’re still providing emergency goods, but with this disaster in the background, we’re starting to turn our attention to the vast job of community reconstruction.
We’re already building 50 household toilets for vulnerable families, repairing borehole pumps to restore safe water to thousands, and replacing roofs and houses. Tomorrow we’ll begin reconstructing a dangerous vehicular bridge, usually crossed daily by hundreds of villagers and schoolchildren, but destroyed by the cyclone’s surging torrents.
The effects of this disaster are long-term and likely to continue to devastate lives for years to come.
So challenging that those with so little, have lost so much—please help immediately if you can, press the “donate” button for options…..