Mobilising relief after Cyclone Freddy devastation
By Lee Forland | Malawi in Southern Africa
Friday, March 10, was a beautiful day. Later that evening, rain began to fall and what seemed like a typical wet season shower, soon became a relentless downpour as Cyclone Freddy ripped through southern Africa for the second time in a month.
The amount of water released by the tropical storm in just a few days was unprecedented as torrential rains and damaging winds wreaked havoc and people said it was the worst cyclone they’d ever seen.
The local hospital became inundated with injured people as reports, videos and photos of flash floods, landslides, washed-out roads and bridges, crumpled houses, spoiled crops and lost lives came streaming in.
Those who suffered the most were the ones living on hillsides, near rivers, or in low lying areas.
SIM workers witnessed the aftermath of large rivers of mud that flowed down hillsides, sweeping away houses and property. Downed power lines also dotted the landscape cutting access to power and water.
Long-standing SIM UK couple Megumi and Helen Fazakerley, say: “Huge amounts of brown water cascaded through neighbourhoods, sweeping away homes.
“Malawi’s commercial hub, Blantyre, recorded most of the deaths, including dozens of children.”
SIM UK’s Ruth Guinness, who is based in Blantyre, serving in an international role as Ministry Point Person for Theological and Missiological Education, says: “Our church has 60 families and 13 have had major damage to their homes, but it’s amazing to see their resilience, in spite of all that’s happened.”
One SIM nurse experienced first-hand the difficulties the local hospital faced in its response to Freddy. A young man, who would have normally been saved in a western hospital, died because resources were not available to help him.
The hospital morgue ran out of space as local residents clamoured to search for missing loved ones. The morgue doors even became difficult to open due to the number of bodies stacked up in its way.
Cyclone Freddy has been declared one of the worst tropical cyclones in Malawi’s history. The reported death toll is 438; 918 injured and 282 people still missing, but it’s likely these figures will continue to rise as search and rescue teams rummage through the debris.
The need is great.
In the midst of the destruction, relief efforts began immediately. Local churches organised volunteers to support the collection and distribution of much-needed supplies to affected areas.
Teams purchased maize, beans, sugar, salt, soap, toothpaste, blankets and other necessities and sorted them into relief buckets. Meanwhile, teams with all-terrain vehicles delivered supplies and relief buckets to the hard-hit areas.
A SIM volunteer says: “It’s really wonderful to see the outpouring of support by so many different people.Teams are working together in good fellowship to organise and deliver supplies.
“Adults, teenagers and youth carry and fetch items from the cars that are donating items for the flood affected victims, with no grumbling, just teamwork. It was also quite humbling when we delivered supplies at a school which had been transformed into a refugee centre.
“There are hundreds of locals, now living at the school who had lost everything, and were very grateful to receive our donations.”
•For the families whose lives were devastated by the cyclone.
•For survivors to have the courage to face the long road of rebuilding communities and put their trust in God.
•That the work of those providing emergency relief is guided by the grace and strength that comes from God alone.
SIM Malawi is launching a response to this disaster by providing care for victims that will likely provision of food, basic utensils, clothing, temporary shelter, counselling, and transport.
To give, please click here to find your closest donation office and mark your gift as Malawi’s Disaster Relief Project #96759.