176 people dead and at least 200,000 displaced in Malawi Flood
Malawi, 17 January 2015, Nirapad News : Flood in Malawi has killed 176 and another 200,000 have been displaced when heavy rains submerged homes, schools, and in places, washing away an entire village. Downriver in neighbouring Mozambique, floodwaters have left at least 38 dead, according to the Mozambican news agency AIM, displaced tens of thousands and damaged the main road linking the north and south of the country.
Dozens of people are missing in Malawi, with at least 153 unaccounted for in the worst affected southern parts of the country, the vice-president, Saulos Chilima, said. “It’s a very bad situation,” he said, speaking at a press conference in Malawi’s commercial capital, Blantyre.
A joint operation between the police and the army was under way to rescue hundreds who were trapped in their villages by flood waters caused by weeks of heavy rain, Chilima said. Rescue workers had found a woman who had given birth while trapped by floodwaters. The mother and newborn were healthy, Chilima said.
“I flew over some parts of the Lower Shire but we could not find anywhere to land,” he said of the south. “It’s a big challenge we have before us.” Thousands of homes had been destroyed, hundreds of hectares of crops submerged and livestock had been washed away, Chilima said.
Tents have been set up for those left homeless, and many have found refuge with friends and neighbours whose homes remained habitable, MSF said in a statement. The international medical organisation said it was concerned that displaced people were also vulnerable to water-borne disease due to unsanitary conditions.
“Most of Nsanje and East Bank are submerged under two to three meters of water, which has transformed these vast plains into a giant lake engulfing houses and bridges,” said Amaury Gregoire, MSF’s mission head in Malawi’s south.
The UN World Food Programme said it planned to airlift more than 100 tons of food to feed at least 77,000, but added in a statement that accessing Malawi’s southern districts had been “extremely difficult”.
In Chikwawa, 27 miles from Blantyre, traditional leaders sent dugout canoes to rescue stranded villagers, some finding shelter in trees.
“Some tree branches snapped, tossing people back into the water,” said Issa Bande, whose village was flooded when Malawi’s largest river, the Shire river, burst its banks.
In Mozambique, the Licungo river burst its banks and has reached its highest levels since 1971, killing at least seven people as they tried to cross its bridge, while a ferry sank on the river, killing eight people, according to Mozambican news agency, AIM.
The Zambezia province is the worst hit, where at least 23 people have died and thousands left homeless, according to AIM.
Malawi’s government said it was working on a disaster preparedness strategy.