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Hope fades for rescuing 500 missing Malawi cyclone victims

FILE - A road connecting the cities of Blantyre and Lilongwe is seen damaged following heavy rains caused by Tropical Cyclone Freddy in Blantyre, Malawi

FILE - A road connecting the cities of Blantyre and Lilongwe is seen damaged following heavy rains caused by Tropical Cyclone Freddy in Blantyre, Malawi

Officials in Malawi say hope has all but disappeared for finding some 500 people who are still missing two weeks after Cyclone Freddy hit the country.

Disaster management officials said Wednesday that the country will now focus on rebuilding infrastructure destroyed by the cyclone.

Charles Kalemba, commissioner for the Department of Disaster Management Affairs, told reporters that the search and rescue team has ended operations in some districts, including Chiradzulu, where the government used excavators to sift through the muddy rubble.

However, Kalemba said the search team comprising police and military is still working in two other mudslide-hit districts, Phalombe and Mulanje.

“At this point … the work that they have done, even using the sniffing dogs, the chances of them being found are very slim,” Kalemba said. “But we have a process that would be followed where we would declare the missing [people] to have been passed on.”

The storm killed at least 676 people and displaced more than 650,000 others in southern Malawi. The cyclone, which also hit Mozambique and Madagascar, destroyed many bridges and roads in Malawi, making many areas only reachable by boats and aircraft.

Kalemba said the country has started working on road reconstruction, using military engineers from Malawi and Tanzania. Maj Gen Saiford Kalisha, chief of military operations and training for the Malawi defense force, told reporters that areas that are cut off are expected to be accessible by road in about four weeks.

The cyclone has also raised fears of an imminent food shortage in affected areas. The Department of Disaster Management Affairs said about 2.3 million people in southern Malawi have lost their crops and livestock.

Speaking during a televised prayer organized by the Evangelical Association of Malawi on Wednesday, President Lazarus Chakwera said Malawians should not lose hope but instead turn to God.

“Because there can be no hope if you know that there is no one to call up and too many of us are losing it because our hearts are failing us, because of fear,” Chakwera said. “But we need to understand that there is a higher power who loves each one of us and loves this nation and who gives hope where there seems to be no hope at all.”

In the meantime, the Malawi government has made significant changes to its 2023-2024 national budget to deal with the cyclone’s devastation. For instance, the government has allocated money for the purchase of two aircraft to help in search and rescue operations in time of disasters.


0 #1 Mubiru 2023-03-31 19:11
When a huge quake struck Turkey and killed over 47000 people, Uganda got concerned. But they got unnecessarily agitated as if Uganda not vulnerable to such seismic shocks was next target.

The Minister of Disaster and weather experts ran places alerting people. The floods in Malawi and Mozambique have killed thousands. Yet Uganda and other Africans are sitting comfortably.

Peoples homes are razed and destroyed by thieves. The victims are chased from their homes by land thieves and left homeless like refugees. Peoples homes are flooded and their owners sleep above water. There is no difference between their shanties and toilets.

Buildings are burnt and people are murdered. All these are disasters which the so called Minister should get concerned about instead of caring about rich Turkey. Yet due to malice and tribalism Uganda cannot treat the hapless as victims of disaster. Something is terrible wrong with Uganda and African race.
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