Love reigns in wreckage


Love, humanity, grace and compassion have been the overriding impressions in the devastation that Tropical Cyclone Freddy has left in its trail.

Despite having taken with it at least 326 lives, the storm, described by the World Meteorological Organisation as the longest-lasting ever recorded and one of the deadliest in Africa, has not conquered the tenacity of a people united in disaster.

As rescue workers comb through the wreckage in Blantyre and surrounding areas, the figure of those who have died will obviously go up, for dozens are believed to be still trapped in the ground.


The atmosphere might be dark and solemn, but there is this determination by Malawians to look out for any way they can help.

In Mulanje, a civilian joined a rescue team of soldiers and almost lost his life after the boat capsized in raging waters. He managed to swim to safety and got rewarded with a job in the Malawi Defence Force.

In Ndirande Township, a family offered a sitting room of their house to neighbours who had lost everything after mudslides razed down their home.


That has been the case in several other parts of the Southern Region, where survivors have found solace in the self-abnegation of their neighbours and strangers offering to host them as they wait to rebuild their shattered homes.

Perhaps, no amount of unity, love and dedication has ever been seen in a crisis before like it is happening now.

Some individuals and groups are mobilising resources to reach survivors stuck in temporary structures so that they do not starve and have something to keep them warm.

In hospitals, doctors and nurses are working around the clock to treat those injured in the disaster which killed seven members of the same family in Chilobwe Township, the worst-hit location in the region.

The medical workers have dedicated themselves to the service of humanity—and they are doing their best to save lives even in the midst of minimal resources.

It may seem strange that a period of chaos and pandemonium is the one that has so far told us how united we can be as a people.

In situations like these, which often invite panic, rescuers have remained level-headed, aptly fighting the impulse to haphazardly go with the flow

But, in essence, that also tells us that no extent of disaster will ever kill our Umunthu—the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity—for even though hundreds did not manage to make it out of the catastrophe, still we are because they were.

In Ndirande, Times Group journalists reporting on the wreckage temporarily suspended the live coverage to ferry the injured to hospital.

As the people, most of them children, gasped for breath after being pulled out of the debris, the journalists could not muster the strength to continue with their task and used their vehicle to take them where they could be treated.

Some owners of Land Rovers, the off-road capable vintage vehicles, tendered the machines for reaching areas which other cars cannot reach, to deliver relief supplies and bring survivors stuck in such places to safety.

Without being asked, thousands of Malawians have come together to support, however way they can, survivors of the deadliest storm to ever hit the southern hemisphere.

Even before President Lazarus Chakwera had declared the 10 districts battered by the harsh weather disaster areas, all manner of aid was flowing in for victims.

In the absence of camera flashes, several Malawians have come forward to be each other’s keepers.

They are preparing meals for hungry children staying in evacuation camps because the children have lost everything: homes and parents, and now they are enduring the harsh elements in the makeshift structures.

Touched by our devastation, the Zambia Government has also provided aid for survivors. They have given us food and other relief items with which to cushion the impacts of the tragedy.

Such acts of neighbourliness will forever be cherished, for what more can a neighbour do than hold up your hand in a time of catastrophe?

Well, much more support will be needed for thousands who are homeless and are stuck in evacuation camps.

But at least, the initial love and compassion has laid the foundation for greater response. It has shown the world how a people united in a tragedy can subdue the suffering when it should have been getting worse.

Nevertheless, beyond the spell of Tropical Cyclone Freddy and its impacts, after the sun has once again shone bright and the skies are clear, survivors will have to return home.

One certain thing is that the storm may have taken away their homes, food, clothes and loved ones, but it has not knocked them to the ground.

Surrounded by friends and neighbours who buoy them up, they must rebuild, and if another cyclone strikes, rebuild again, and repeat the task if another one visits again, perhaps until it finds no more preys.

They must rebuild in safer locations.

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