By Arnold Neliba
LILONGWE, MARCH 17, 2023 (CISA)-Pope Francis has expressed his closeness with the victims of tropical cyclone Freddy, which has so far claimed 326 lives in Malawi and a total of 400 in the entire region of Southern Africa.
“I am close to the people of Malawi hit in recent days by a very strong cyclone. I pray for the dead, the injured, and the displaced. May the Lord support the families and the communities hardest hit by this calamity,” Pope Francis prayed on March 15 at the open-air general audience at St. Peters’ Square in the Vatican.
According to a situation report shared by Relief Web, over 160,000 people have been displaced while a further 377,000 were affected by the cyclone, noting that the full extent of the crisis is not yet known due to ongoing accessibility challenges.
President Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi on Thursday, March 16, directed that the country will observe a 14-day mourning period over the deaths caused by tropical cyclone Freddy.
In a statement, the Secretary to the President and Cabinet Mr Collen Zamba said that “all flags are to be hoisted at half-mast for the first 7 days of the mourning period (Thursday, March 16, to Wednesday, March 22, 2023)”.
“The cyclone has destroyed property, homes, crops, and infrastructure, including bridges that have cut off communities that desperately need help,” Chakwera said while appealing for global aid.
On March 14, the Episcopal Conference of Malawi while calling for solidarity with the affected families launched an appeal to help mitigate the effects of Cyclone Freddy.
“Because of the huge scale of the calamity and the immensity of the exercise, distribution of the donations collected should be done as soon as possible and, appropriate records and reports sent to the CADECOM National Office,” reads a statement that tasked the Catholic Development Commission (CADECOM) to coordinate the exercise at the diocesan and national level.
The cyclone first struck Madagascar and Mozambique in late February causing partial damage in Malawi. The storm then moved back out and over the Indian Ocean where it drew more power from the warm waters before making a course reversal to slam into the mainland for a second time.
In Mozambique, the storm has caused at least 73 deaths and displaced tens of thousands of people over the past weeks and killed a further 17 people in Madagascar.
Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi has also appealed for emergency aid to rebuild destroyed infrastructure after visiting the stricken province of Zambezia, which borders Malawi.