Blantyre, Malawi — Authorities in both countries confirmed that the relentless Cyclone Freddy, which is currently bearing down on southern Africa, has killed at least 56 people in Malawi and Mozambique after it made a second landfall on the continent on Saturday night.
Local police said 51 people in Malawi, including 36 in Chilabwe in the central financial center of Blantyre, were killed and several others were missing or injured. Authorities in Mozambique reported that five people have died in the country since Saturday.
In Malawi, five members of a family died in Ndirande township in Blantyre after Freddie’s destructive winds and heavy rains destroyed their home, according to a police report. A three-year-old child trapped in the debris is also among the victims, and her parents are among the missing, authorities said.
“We suspect that this number will increase as we try to compile a single national report from the south-west, south-east and east police stations covering the affected areas,” Malawi police spokesman Peter Kalaia told the AP.
The cyclone swept over Mozambique and Malawi over the weekend and into Monday. It is the second time the record-breaking cyclone, which has been wreaking havoc in southern Africa since late February, has reached the African mainland. He also broke up the island nations of Madagascar and Reunion while crossing the ocean.
The cyclone has strengthened a record seven times and has the highest recorded cyclone accumulated energy, or ACE, which is a measure of how much energy a cyclone has released over time. During its lifetime, Freddie recorded more energy than the entire normal US hurricane season.
Freddie first developed near Australia in early February and traveled throughout the southern Indian Ocean. It is believed to be the longest-lasting tropical cyclone on record. The United Nations Meteorological Agency has convened an expert panel to determine whether the record of 31 days set by Hurricane John in 1994 has been broken.
On Saturday, Freddie made landfall in the Mozambique seaport of Kelliman, where there were reports of damage to homes and farmland, although the extent of the damage was not yet clear. Telecommunications and other critical infrastructure remain down in much of the affected Zambezi province, hampering rescue and other humanitarian efforts.
The French weather agency Météo-France’s regional tropical cyclone monitoring center in Reunion warned on Monday that the “heaviest rains will continue over the next 48 hours” as Freddie continues. Weather monitors identified the central provinces of Mozambique and Malawi as particularly vulnerable to “flooding and landslides in mountainous areas”.
Most of the damage in Malawi is to houses built in restricted areas, such as mountainous areas or near rivers, where they have to contend with landslides, unprecedented floods and overflowing rivers. The cyclone forced the government of Malawi to suspend schools in 10 districts of the southern region “as a precaution”.
Freddie is expected to weaken and return to sea on Wednesday, Météo-France said.