Death toll climbs in Malawi and Mozambique as Cyclone Freddy strikes southern Africa for second time

A man outside his home in Blantyre, Malawi after it was destroyed in the wake of Cyclone Freddy. Credit: AP

At least 56 people in Malawi and Mozambique have died as the unrelenting Cyclone Freddy batters southern Africa for a second time, the countries' authorities have confirmed.

Local police said 51 people in Malawi, including 36 in Chilobwe, in the financial hub of Blantyre, in the centre of the country have died, with several others missing or injured.

Authorities in Mozambique reported that five people were killed in the country since Saturday.

The deaths in Malawi include five members of a single family who died in Blantyre’s Ndirande township after Freddy’s destructive winds and heavy rains demolished their house, according to a police report.

A three-year-old child who was "trapped in the debris" is also among the victims, with her parents among those reported missing, authorities also said.

“We suspect that this figure will rise as we are trying to compile one national report from our southwest, southeast and eastern police offices which cover the affected areas,” said Malawi police spokesperson Peter Kalaya.

People cross a raging river in Blantyre, Malawi, after Cyclone Freddy brings heavy rainfall and flooding Credit: AP

The cyclone lashed over Mozambique and Malawi over the weekend and into Monday. It’s the second time the record-breaking cyclone — which has been causing destruction in southern Africa since late February — made landfall in mainland Africa.

It also pummelled the island states of Madagascar and Réunion as it traversed across the ocean.

Overall the storm has lead to the deaths of over 100 people since it began its destructive path.

The cyclone has intensified a record seven times, earning it the title 'Zombie storm' from academics as it keeps coming back to life.

It now has the highest-ever recorded accumulated cyclone energy, or ACE, which is a measurement of how much energy a cyclone has released over time.

Freddy has used more energy over its lifetime than an entire typical U.S. hurricane season.

In early February the storm first developed near Australia and travelled across the entire southern Indian Ocean.

It is set to be the longest-ever recorded tropical cyclone.

The U.N.'s weather agency has convened an expert panel to determine whether it has broken the record set by Hurricane John in 1994 of 31 days.

After Freddy hit the seaport of Quelimane in Mozambique on Saturday, there are reports of damage to houses and farmlands, although the extent of the destruction is not yet clear.

Telecommunications and other essential infrastructure are still cut off in much of the affected Zambezia province, making rescues and other humanitarian efforts difficult.

Cyclone Freddy has baffled meteorologists as it continues to cause damage for over a month

French weather agency Météo-France's regional tropical cyclone monitoring centre in Réunion warned Monday that “the heaviest rains will continue over the next 48 hours” as Freddy barrels on.

Mozambique’s central provinces and Malawi have been identified as especially vulnerable to “floods and landslides in mountainous areas” by weather monitors.

Much of the damage experienced in Malawi is in homes built in areas prohibited by law such as in mountainous regions or near rivers where they are battling landslides, unprecedented flooding and rivers bursting their banks.

The cyclone has forced the Malawian government to suspend schools in 10 districts in its southern region “as a precautionary measure.”

Freddy is expected weaken and to exit back to sea on Wednesday, according to Météo-France.

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