159 feared dead in Lower Shire


Chikwawa and Nsanje districts are feared to have lost 159 people to the flooding this week.

District Commissioner for Nsanje, Ali Phiri, said yesterday that as of Thursday 153 people were either confirmed or presumed dead in the district alone, following the swelling of the Shire River which swept over large hectares of habitable land.

In the neighbouring district of Chikwawa, officials said six people lost their lives.


The victims rescue mission was spearheaded by Malawi Defence Force (MDF) and District Disaster Preparedness teams.

“As of Thursday, our records indicated that a total of 85,000 people were displaced in Nsanje district. The worst hit has been the East Bank; the area under T/A Mlolo where 38,000 people were displaced,” said Phiri.

He said there was no hope of finding the missing people alive. He said search efforts were also being hampered by unfavourable weather conditions and impassable roads.


Officials complained that the rescue boats being used could not sail properly due to rocks, trees and crocodiles.

“The whole of Makhanga area is currently submerged in water, save for a 100 metre strip. Unfortunately, the area has been cut off from Bangula due to the washing away of Bailey bridge (popularly known as Mtayamoyo). All roads in the area have been rendered impassable,” he said.

Among the dead is the head teacher in Nsanje as well as his wife and three children.

Chikwawa Police Officer-In-Charge, MacMillan Nyirongo, confirmed that six people were killed by floods in the district.

“Although six is the confirmed death toll at the moment, we are still receiving reports of missing persons. This means we expect the numbers of dead people to increase over time,” he said.

Chikwawa District Commissioner, Felix Mdoka, however, indicated that the rescue operation was being frustrated by some people who were refusing to be rescued.

On Thursday, MDF helicopters evacuated 84 people from Mwananjovu area to flood victims camps.

“But we still have people stuck in the middle of the water especially on Chimphanga and Mazongoza Islands on the Shire River. We have agreed to give them a second chance,” said Mdoka.

Meanwhile, government has said there was need for a comprehensive assessment of the damage caused by the floods.

Commissioner for Disaster Management Affairs Paul Chiunguzeni said there was need to plan for long term solutions to the flood problem.

“At the moment we still have to look for extra supplies such as tents, food, sanitary facilities, and kitchenware for those in the camps and polythene sheets for those that are still in their localities. We also need extra hands in health care and provision of safe water to avoid outbreak of diseases,” he said.

Chiunguzeni said the department had depleted the K150 million emergency fund it had in its coffers. The government has, therefore, allocated it another K500 million to mitigate the flood effects.

“In the long term we need to strategize on how these people can sustain their livelihoods considering that most of them will not be able to replant their crops. Besides that, government will also be looking at ways to replace the damaged infrastructure,” Chiunguzeni said.

He, however, admitted shortfalls within the department in handling emergencies saying the department will soon train all stakeholders to ensure coordinated operations in time of disasters.

The floods have been triggered by torrential rainfall which has been blamed on the La Nina weather that hit the Shire Highlands and the Lower Shire last week.

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