Death toll from Cyclone Freddy in Southeast Africa tops 500 | Environment News

The World Meteorological Organization says Cyclone Freddy, which started in February, is likely to be the longest on record in history.

The death toll in southeast Africa from the exceptionally long tropical cyclone Freddy has risen to 522, according to authorities in Malawi, Mozambique and Madagascar.

Disaster management authorities in Malawi, which was hardest hit by the cyclone, reported on Saturday that the death toll in that country had risen to 438. Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera on Thursday declared a period of 14 days of national mourning.

Hundreds of evacuation centers have been set up across the country for survivors, tens of thousands of people homeless in Malawi and an estimated 345,000 people affected by heavy rains, floods and landslides.

The cyclone left a trail of devastation across southeastern Africa. Neighboring Mozambique and the island nation of Madagascar have also been affected.

In Mozambique, at least 67 people have died, according to President Filipe Nyusi, with another 50,000 displaced.

The death toll in both countries is expected to continue to rise. At least 17 people have been killed in the island nation of Madagascar.

Cyclone Freddy dissipated over land on Wednesday evening after making landfall for the second time in Mozambique and then Malawi over the weekend and causing massive devastation in several regions, including Malawi’s financial capital, Blantyre .

Some of the survivors of Cyclone Freddy at a camp in Blantyre, Malawi [Rabson Kondowe/Al Jazeera]

Reporting from Makanga, an island in Malawi, Al Jazeera’s Fahmida Miller said that while rescue services continued, they were slow to transport people from the flooded islands to the mainland.

“So far they [the police services] reached about 1,300 people, but hundreds more are waiting. They had to take refuge in the trees. Their homes have been swept away and they have no food either,” Miller said.

“It will certainly be at least a few more days before a bigger dent is made in terms of rescuing people in places like this, which have been very difficult to reach so far,” he said. she adds.

Freddy first made landfall on February 21 in Madagascar. From there, the storm moved towards Mozambique and then crossed the Indian Ocean. On March 11, it reached Mozambique for the second time, then moved on to Malawi.

“Many areas are inaccessible, limiting the movement of assessment and humanitarian teams and vital supplies,” said Paul Turnbull, director of the World Food Program in Malawi. “The true extent of the damage will not be revealed until assessments are completed.”

Both countries were already dealing with a cholera outbreak before the cyclone hit and there are fears the floods could worsen the spread of waterborne diseases. Mozambique was also grappling with the first blows and floods from Freddy earlier in the year.

Scientists say human-caused climate change has worsened cyclone activity, making them wetter, more intense and more frequent.

Cyclone Freddy has been ravaging southern Africa since late February when it hit Mozambique, Madagascar and Reunion. It then looped back to the mainland after regaining strength in the Mozambique Channel.

The World Meteorological Organization has assembled a group of experts to determine if Cyclone Freddy has broken the record for the longest cyclone on record.

Southern Africa is currently in hurricane season, which can bring rain and violent storms until March or April.

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