According to the president of Malawi, 326 people have died as a result of Cyclone Freddy, bringing the overall number of fatalities in southern Africa since February to over 400.
Rescuers were uncovering more corpses as the chance of finding survivors diminished after the cyclone took an extremely unusual turn and made a second pass over the southern African mainland.
“As of yesterday, the death toll from this disaster has risen from 225 to 326,” Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera said in the devastated southern region near the commercial hub Blantyre.
“The number of people displaced has more than doubled to 183,159, as has the number of households displaced, which now stands at 40,702,” he added.
As rescuers continued to look for victims of the flooding and mudslides brought on by this week’s torrential rains on Thursday, Chakwera repeated his call for international assistance.
While the army and police have been sent in to deal with the crisis, more than 300 emergency shelters have been put up for survivors.
The country has been put into a state of emergency and two weeks of national grief.
“The cyclone has destroyed property, homes, crops, and infrastructure, including bridges that have cut off communities that desperately need help,” Chakwera said.
The cyclone first struck southern Africa in late February, striking Madagascar and Mozambique but causing only limited damage in landlocked Malawi.
The storm then moved back out over the Indian Ocean, where it drew more power from the warm waters before making a rare course reversal to slam into the mainland a second time.
The rains have eased since Wednesday but Freddy is still on track to become one of the world’s longest tropical storms.
In Mozambique, the storm has caused at least 73 deaths and displaced tens of thousands of people over the past weeks and killed a further 17 people in Madagascar.
Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi has also appealed for emergency aid to rebuild destroyed infrastructure after visiting the stricken province of Zambezia, which borders Malawi.
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