According to authorities in Malawi, Mozambique, and Madagascar, the number of fatalities caused by the unusually long-lasting Tropical Storm Freddy in southeast Africa has increased to 522.
The number of fatalities increased to 438 on Saturday, according to the disaster management officials in Malawi, the country that was most severely affected by the cyclone. Lazarus Chakwera, the president of Malawi, announced a 14-day period of national mourning on Thursday.
There are hundreds of evacuation centers set up across the nation for survivors, with 345,000 people impacted by the severe rains, floods, and landslides, and tens of thousands of people left homeless in Malawi.
The cyclone left a trail of devastation in southeast Africa. Neighbouring Mozambique and the island nation of Madagascar have also been affected.
In Mozambique, at least 67 people died, according to President Filipe Nyusi, with 50,000 more displaced.
It is expected that the death toll in both nations will continue to climb. At least 17 people were killed in the island nation of Madagascar.
Cyclone Freddy dissipated over land late Wednesday after it made a second landfall in Mozambique and then Malawi over the weekend and caused mass devastation in several regions, including Malawi’s financial capital, Blantyre.
Reporting from Makanga, an island in Malawi, Al Jazeera’s Fahmida Miller said that while rescue services were continuing, they have been slow to transport people from flooded islands to the mainland.
“So far, they [the police services] have reached about 1,300 people, but hundreds more are waiting. They have had to seek refuge in trees. Their homes have been washed away and they also don’t have any food,” said Miller.
“It will certainly be at least a few more days before a bigger dent is made in terms of rescuing people in places like this, which have been very difficult to reach up until now,” she added.
Freddy first made landfall on February 21 in Madagascar. From there, the storm moved on to Mozambique and then back across the Indian Ocean. On March 11, it reached Mozambique for the second time and then moved on to Malawi.
“A lot of areas are inaccessible, restricting movement of assessment and humanitarian teams and life-saving supplies,” said Paul Turnbull, the World Food Program’s director in Malawi. “The true extent of the damage will only be revealed once assessments have been concluded.”
Before the hurricane hit, there was a cholera outbreak in both countries, and there are worries that the floods would worsen the spread of water-borne illnesses. Early in the year, floods and Freddy’s initial battering both affected Mozambique.
According to scientists, cyclone activity has gotten worse due to human-caused climate change, becoming wetter, more intense, and more frequent.
Since it devastated Mozambique, Madagascar, and Réunion in late February, Cyclone Freddy has wreaked havoc throughout southern Africa. Then, after regaining strength across the Mozambique Channel, it looped back onto shore.
The World Meteorological Organization has convened an expert panel to determine whether Cyclone Freddy has broken the record for the longest-ever cyclone in recorded history.
Southern Africa is currently in cyclone season, which can bring rain and severe storms until March or April.