Survivors of trauma after Hurricane Freddy passes 400 dead in Malawi, Mozambique

BLANTYRE (Reuters) – The last thing Lukiya Akemo remembers is the floodwaters that hit her village near Mount Such this week when Tropical Cyclone Freddy swept through southern Malawi.

Next thing I knew, she woke up in the hospital, her head wrapped in bandages and her neck in a brace.

said the 35-year-old from a bed at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Blantyre.

A nurse told Reuters it was not known if any of her family members survived.

Tropical Cyclone Freddy has killed more than 400 people in Malawi, Mozambique and Madagascar since it made its first landfall in Africa in late February and hit the region for a second time over the weekend.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Climate Change said in a statement that the storm has now abated, but heavy rains are expected to continue in parts of Malawi and are likely to cause more flooding around the lakeshore areas.

In Mozambique, some villages have been completely cut off since the cyclone made landfall for the second time on Saturday.

“We have mobilized boats and other means to search and rescue people. There are a lot of communities that are stranded,” said Paulo Thomas, a spokesman for Mozambique’s disaster relief agency.

“After this time they are starving and need a proper meal and medical assistance.”

According to government figures, at least 53 people have died in Mozambique and 326 in Malawi since the weekend. The storm had already killed about 27 people in Madagascar and Mozambique before hitting Mozambique again.

Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera visited the Queen Elizabeth Hospital on Thursday and prayed for the flood victims. The storm has injured at least 700 people in Malawi at last count.

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As the rain continued, some had to bury their dead.

In the southern village of Matushira, men stood in freshly dug graves that filled up like puddles, scooping up water with buckets so they could lower chests into crates.

While electricity began to return to Malawi on Thursday, many places affected by the storm still lack running water, including Blantyre, the second largest city.

Some Blantyre residents said they wish they had heeded warnings to flee before the cyclone hit, but did not understand the gravity of the situation and now have nowhere to go.

“It was very difficult for people to really understand what was happening before this storm. The government sent the messages but nothing happened after that,” said Blantyre resident Lujasiano Mesoya. “I am lucky to be alive.”

Freddy is one of the longest lasting tropical cyclones ever recorded and one of the deadliest cyclones in Africa in recent years.

Additional reporting by Tom Gibb and Frank Ferry in Blantyre and Manuel Mucari in Maputo; Additional reporting by Karen du Plessis in Johannesburg. Writing by Nellie Beaton and Annette Meridzanian; Editing by Alexander Winning, Bradley Perrett, Sharon Singleton and Andrew Heavens

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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