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Storm Freddy claims over 60 lives on returning to Mozambique, Malawi

The death toll of Tropical Storm Freddy looks to amount to 60 people by Monday as Mozambique and Malawi assess the scope of damage left in its wake, with scores of people injured.

Making for the strongest storms ever recorded in the southern hemisphere and potentially the longest-lasting tropical cyclone, Freddy ripped through southern Africa for the second time this month over the weekend.

It mowed down buildings in central Mozambique on Saturday, snatching roofs and unleashing widespread flooding around the port of Quelimane. The tempest then moved inland towards Malawi where torrential rains brought about landslides.

Counting of losses and full damage assessment continues in Mozambique where the power supply and phone signals remain cut off in some parts of the affected areas.

At least 60 bodies had been delivered to the central hospital of Malawi’s main commercial hub of Blantyre by early afternoon, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) country director Marion Pechayre told Reuters, adding that some 200 people were hospitalized thereat.

Falling trees, landslides, and flash floods were the main causes of injuries, she said, adding that “a lot of [houses] are mud houses with tin roofs, so the roofs fall on people’s heads.”

Chipiliro Khamula, a spokesperson for the department of disaster management, said that casualties were still coming in from the affected areas.

For his part, police spokesperson Peter Kalaya told Reuters that rescuers had been looking for people in Chilobwe and Ndirande, two of the hardest-hit townships in the country’s second-largest city Blantyre, where it was still raining on Monday and many residents are without power.

“Some missing people are feared buried in rubble,” Kalaya stressed.

The cyclone also bore down on Mozambique’s Quelimane where at least six people died, authorities told the public broadcaster on Monday.

Scores more people were injured, Health Minister Armindo Tiago said on Radio Mozambique.

“The situation is critical in Zambezia province. We can’t advance with an accurate picture of the scale of damage because there’s no communications with all the regions,” he said from a hospital in Quelimane.

The total number killed by storm Freddy in Mozambique, Malawi, and Madagascar since its first arrival last month is now nearing 100.

Humanitarian agencies in Mozambique lacked the capacity to address a disaster of this size, Guy Taylor, chief of advocacy, communications, and partnerships for U.N. children’s agency UNICEF in Mozambique, told Reuters from Quelimane.

“We saw a lot of destroyed buildings and clinics. People’s homes had their roofs torn off by the wind. Even before the cyclone hit we saw localized flooding,” he said.

The wind had subsided on Monday but there was still a lot of flooding that had devastated crops and created risk of waterborne diseases, he said.

In just the past four weeks, Mozambique has seen more than a year’s worth of rainfall.

Meanwhile, Malawi has been struggling with the deadliest cholera outbreak in its history. U.N. agencies warn the situation could now deteriorate.

The leading factor behind tropical storms’ buffed-up might could be oceans absorbing heat from greenhouse gas emissions, some scientists say, adding that when warm seawater evaporates heat energy is then transferred to the atmosphere.

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