A devastating cyclone that has been named Cyclone Freddy has hit the Southern parts of Malawi causing unprecedented damage to houses and other property rendering scores of people destitute and in great need. Barely a day after its occurrence, it has been further reported that 63 people have been recorded dead and 16 others missing. Among the deceases include 5 members of one family in Ndirande township whose home collapsed last night leaving all five inside dead.
The damage to both private and public property is estimated on the highest scale ever throughout history of such natural disasters in Malawi. Power main transmission lines have not been spared, leading into electricity supply cut throughout the grid that transmits power generated at Nkula situated in the southern region.
The scenario has prompted president Lazarus Chakwera to declare state of disaster, as announced by Secretary to the President and Cabinet (SPC) Collen Zamba today. According to the announcement, the president has made the declaration pursuant to Disaster Preparedness and Relief Act.
The relevant provision in the Act empowers the president of the country to make such “declaration of a state of disaster if, at any time, it appears to the President that any disaster is of such a nature and extent that extraordinary measures are necessary to assist and protect the persons affected or likely to be affected by the disaster.”
The Act further permits the president to make any measures necessary to respond to the disaster in pursuit of protecting people’s lives and property. On this call, the president, as Commander-In-Chief of the Malawi Defense Forces has ordered deployment of battalion soldiers to carry out rescue operations while working hand-in-hand with other disaster response stakeholders in providing humanitarian support to the victims that have been left homeless and injured.
In view of the declaration made today, the state of disaster has started immediately and will, according to the enabling Act, run for a maximum period of three months unless the situation improves before that period elapses in which case the president will be required to, through a notice in gazette, withdraw the declaration. However, the Act says, if three months’ period ends while the disaster is still prevailing, another notice extending the declaration for another period not exceeding three months will be required.
The specific areas that have been declared to be in the state of disaster include Blantyre city and district; Zomba city and district; Chikwawa district; Chiradzulu district; Mulanje district; Mwanza district; Neno district; Nsanje district; Thyolo district; and Phalombe district.
According metrological department officials that have spoken to Shiretimes, a disaster declaration is made to acknowledge that a disaster that has occurred exceeds the ordinary capacity of the country to effectively response and recover from the damage. Since the cyclone may continue causing wreckage in the country, it is indeed important for the leadership of the country to highlight the crisis and call for assistance from both local and international stakeholders in order to deal with the loss through recovery of damaged public property and the injured people.
Meanwhile, president Chakwera is expected to arrive in the country tomorrow evening returning from his official trip to Doha in Qatar where he attended the United Nations 5th Conference of Least Developed Countries. According to communication released by Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Lilongwe, after completing the engagements in Qatar, the president transited to the Republic of South Africa where he carried out bilateral engagements with his South African counterpart, president Cyril Ramaphosa.