If there are still people skeptical of climate change, then Cyclone Freddy, which devastated parts of Madagascar, Mozambique and especially Malawi in March, must be irrefutable proof that global warming is a clear and present global danger. There has been heavy loss of life, property, and critical infrastructure. The cyclone, which according to the World Meteorological Organization could have been the longest lasting tropical cyclone on record, is believed to have formed in northwest Australia in February before travelling across the Indian Ocean. It hit the island nation of Madagascar and then traversed the Mozambican channel twice before making catastrophic landfall on March 11-12, causing fatalities and severe damage and loss in southern Malawi.
For Malawi, the unprecedented damage has been frightening and distressful. Heavy rainstorms accompanied by destructive winds brought down structures in its path. There have been severe floods and landslides, damaging key infrastructure including roads, bridges, power stations and water supply. The death toll was estimated to reach 1,200, with half a million people displaced. Mudslides and the floods swept away houses, killing people including the elderly, the disabled, women and children. People had their houses fall on them, some having to be rescued out of the rubble. Entire families perished at once. Farm land and livestock were devastated and washed away in a country where some 85 percent of the population of 20 million depend on agriculture for their livelihood.
Disaster response and relief
The extent of the damage in about 14 districts in the southern region of Malawi compelled the nation’s leadership to declare a state of disaster and to issue a worldwide appeal for support. An operation is underway to support those that have had their communities cut off. Over 500 camps have been set up in all the affected districts. But some parts of the country remain unreachable by land. The government released US$1.6 million to manage the aftermath of the calamity and the immediate needs of the victims, including provision of food, clean water, clothing, shelter and healthcare.