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Malawi braces for cyclone Freddy

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As threats from Tropical Cyclone Freddy continue to mount, some people in Chikwawa district, one of those expected to be hit, have started moving to safe locations, according to the district authorities.

Throughout the week, the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services has been issuing a warning that Tropical Cyclone Freddy will land in Malawi today.

Humphrey Magalasi, Chikwawa District Relief and Rehabilitation Officer, said the office has been scaling up the warning messages to communities.

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“We have come up with jingles that are being aired in community radio stations. We have been going around during the week and we will continue today alerting people of what should be expected and what they should do.

“Being proactive is the best approach as opposed to being reactive. So some people who were in the risk areas have been moving to evacuation centres. We are pushing for early action because we have the elderly, women and children so we want to protect each of them in good time,” he said.

A statement which the Meteorological Department released yesterday afternoon indicated that the cyclone was in the Mozambique Channel, 435km away from Malawi and had sustained a wind speed of 167 km per hour.

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Director for the Meteorological Department Lucy Mtilatila said the department will continue giving all the necessary updates in regards to the cyclone.

She said the warnings and precaution measures are also being directed to government departments for their appropriate action.

“Our major part or task is to relay the messages and issue the warnings and raise awareness on what to do. The warnings are also going to different sectors of the government such as Dodma, Ministry of Water and Sanitation, Education, and Health. So they [departments] are the ones who are doing the real preparation of the work,” she said.

Among other measures, the department is advising the general public to stay away from rivers and streams as may rise rapidly and become dangerous during heavy rains.

“Avoid traveling during stormy weather, if possible as driving in strong winds can be dangerous. Flood-prone low-lying areas in Southern Malawi to be on high alert for possible flooding. If flooding occurs in your area, move to higher immediately and follow evacuation orders when issued,” reads part of the statement.

Dodma Director of Disaster Response and Recovery Moses Chimphepo said the department has already set in motion the preparedness and response process and district council clusters have been activated.

“Currently we have also sent a rescue team of the Malawi Police Service and from the Marine Department. We already have rescue boats in Nsanje and Chikwawa. We have also activated a national response team with humanitarian partners and they are mobilising resources to support us. We have also identified a place where we are going to establish an emergency operation centre in Blantyre,” he said.

In a statement released yesterday, the World Food Programme (WFP) said there was a meeting of the Malawi Inter-Cluster Coordination Group (ICCG) to kick-start preparedness activities.

It says Dodma started deploying staff from Thursday, 9 March. WFP has sent staff to the Southern region on behalf of Logistics Cluster.

According to the statement, a Humanitarian Staging Area (HSA) in Bangula, Nsanje district is currently warehousing food and non-food items for the Government, Malawi Red Cross and other humanitarian partners.

However, WFP warehouses in Blantyre and Lilongwe do not have any prepositioned food.

“Tropical Cyclone Freddy also brings a heightened risk of disease. Malawi is already battling a cholera outbreak, with more than 50,000 cases reported. Floodwaters could cause damages to health facilities and help spread the illness,” it says.

Cyclone Freddy – which has already hit several countries in southern Africa and caused 21 deaths – has boomeranged back to hit Madagascar a second time.

According to Relief Web, 10 people have died in Madagascar due to the latest rains, bringing Freddy’s death toll to least 27 people [10 in Mozambique and 17 in Madagascar].

This time last year, Malawi was also hit by Tropical Cyclone Gombe which made a landfall on March 5. It came after the devastating Tropical Cyclone Ana which swept across Southern Region in January 2022.

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