Malawi’s dark hour

Nation buries Cyclone Freddy victims


Foggy weather, which created an atmosphere of semi-darkness at Naotcha Primary School Ground in Chilobwe Township, Blantyre, best captured the mood of people when President Lazarus Chakwera joined Malawians in sending off 28 people who died when Tropical Cyclone Freddy wreaked havoc in 10 Southern Region districts during four dark days between Saturday last week and Tuesday this week.

The sky was mourning too; with showers dropping from a dark cloud hovering above thousands of people who gathered to bid farewell to the departed— all lives lost before time.

Men and women of religion sang dirges, every now and then wiping tears with the back of their palms.


As people—including Cabinet ministers, members of the clergy, artists, Blantyre residents and members of the bereaved families—braved the unforgivable weather, with drizzles dampening people’s mood even further, 28 brown and white coffins lay side by side, even though some of the people who were in them, now dead, may not have known each other in real life.

But that is one of the things Tropical Cyclone Freddy has done; it has united people, both in mourning and in reaching out to survivors who are in need of shelter, food, water, clothes, shoes and other items and are seeking temporary shelter in schools, and church and business premises.

“The family of Likoma has been swept away; all 12 members of the family are lying before us, in coffins,” the director of ceremony broke the silence, at least of the people.


But the school ground and the vicinity remained foggy and the skies, like some of the people below, did not stop mourning.

It was a culmination of the suffering caused by Tropical Cyclone Freddy, a merciless natural phenomenon that has left devastation in its wake, with thousands injured and hundreds of people still missing.

A visibly shaken Chakwera described the cyclone as “probably” the most devastating natural disaster he has seen as a person and as President of the Republic of Malawi.

“There are times like these, times that call for emergency solutions.

“It is against this background that I have called for a Cabinet meeting so that we find and release funds towards mending the damage that the cyclone has done and towards victims,” the President, clad in black attire, said.

Local Government Minister Richard Chimwendo Banda lauded Malawians for coming together during “this tearful” time.

He lauded individual citizens, corporate entities and development partners for reaching out to survivors of the cyclone.

Speaking in an interview, Natural Resources Minister Michael Usi described the situation as devastating.

And, speaking in a special address delivered from Sanjika Palace in Blantyre in the evening, Chakwera declared 14 days of national mourning.

He further said, during this period, national flags will be flying at half-mast for seven days in honour of those that have lost lives to the cyclone.

“The damage caused by Cyclone Freddy is the worst this country has ever seen. Those who have lost their lives are now counted at 225,” he said.

Chakwera further said Cabinet had, at a special meeting held yesterday, endorsed the plan to allocate K1.6 billion to disaster response activities.

He also outlined four main things government intends to do during this time.

“[Ensure] decent burial for the dead and [make] all efforts to find the missing; make sure that no one is stranded; bring those affected to shelters and [ensure that there is] food, [and]; those helping now should do so in a coordinated manner and those willing to help, including international organisations, should do so in a coordinated manner,” he said.

Chakwera said he will give another update today on what government has done and will do in coordinating resources to aid the survivors

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