By Staff Reporter
Torrential rains leave scores dead and tens of thousands homeless as president appeals to international donors for humanitarian aid
The Malawi government has declared half the country a disaster zone and appealed for international humanitarian help after torrential rains killed at least 48 people, left 70,000 homeless, and destroyed bridges and roads.
Downpours and flooding have also hit neighbouring Mozambique, where 25 schoolchildren were swept away by torrents on Monday, and where 18 other people have been reported missing.
The heavy rains of the past few days have damaged crops in Malawi, which last year harvested a bumper 3.9m tonnes of the staple maize crop – a surplus of almost 1m tonnes.
The country’s Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services has warned of heavy rainfall and flash floods for the next two to three weeks.
Late on Tuesday, Malawi’s president, Peter Mutharika, said: “It is estimated that 69,995 people have been displaced by the floods and 48 people have lost their lives. The floods have also damaged a lot of hectares of crops, washed away livestock, and damaged infrastructure such as roads and bridges.”
He said many people remained stranded and would need to be rescued from low-lying areas prone to flooding.
Mutharika added: “I declare all the 15 districts that have been affected by floods disaster areas … I appeal for humanitarian assistance, from the international donor community.”
The crop outlook in the southern African country – where much of the agriculture is still done by subsistence farmers – has deteriorated after a late start to rains in the summer planting season, which usually gets under way in October or November.
“Delayed and overall below-average cumulative rains since the start of the rainy season in October last year have adversely affected the 2015 cereal crops, but prolonged heavy rains may worsen the situation,”
said Jeffrey Luhanga, principal secretary in the ministry of agriculture.
In Mozambique, which has been hit periodically by catastrophic floods in the past, the newly elected government has declared a “red alert” for the central and northern parts of the country and is sending rescue boats and aid to stricken areas after several bridges collapsed.
Roads and rail lines have been destroyed by flooded rivers which, according to officials, have also swept away bystanders, people seeking to flee rising waters in canoes and sleeping families whose homes were suddenly overcome by rushing torrents.
The region is likely to face at least two more days of torrential rain carried by late summer storms, according to meteorologists.
The Damage in Pictures