CYCLONE FREDDY’S SECOND COMING HITS MALAWI HARD
The longest-lived tropical cyclone in known weather history, Freddy, made an unexpected rebound over the Mozambique Channel on the 1st of March, gradually building energy in a dramatic way before wandering into neighbouring Malawi and wreaking havoc in the southern parts of the landlocked country on the 13th.
At the time of writing, nearly a hundred people were reported dead in Malawi and hundreds of homes destroyed.
The capital, Blantyre, was the hardest hit. Flash flooding and massive landslides were reported. At a settlement near Soche Mountain in the south, homes were flooded with mud and several structures were washed away. Heart-sinking videos of people being marooned or washed away have been circulating on the internet since the night of the 13th.
UNICEF and WFP have since responded to this unfolding humanitarian crisis by providing relief items like food, blankets, and temporary shelter.
Neighbouring Zimbabwe, which was initially in the path of the destructive storm when it made its second landfall south of Vilanculos in Mozambique, was miraculously sparred the wrath of the indefatigable weather phenomenon.
On the weekend of 11-12 March, the country’s eastern province of Manicaland, which is closer to Mozambique, received over 102mm of rainfall and there were isolated reports of landslides and uprooted trees blocking roads. But the damage was comparatively less than the damage suffered in Malawi.
A LONG RESILIENT JOURNEY ACROSS THE OCEANS
Cyclone Freddy first developed as a disturbance embedded within the monsoon trough in the Australian cyclone region on February 4, 2023.
It is the fourth named storm in the region’s 2022 – 23 cyclone season, and the second very intense tropical cyclone of the 2022 – 23 South-Western Indian Ocean cyclone season.
Freddy has surpassed 1994’s Hurricane John’s record of 31 days to become the longest-lived cyclone. It also boasts of the highest Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) of any tropical cyclone.
The raging phenomenon quickly intensified and became a Category 4 severe tropical cyclone, before setting sail in the South-Western Indian Ocean basin, picking further intensity. At one point, Freddy had an estimated 10-minute wind speed of 220km/ (165 mph).
The storm made its first contact with land near Mananjary, in Madagascar , where it left a notable trail of destruction. Freddy also affected Mauritius and Réunion with a battering of strong winds and adverse weather conditions. Thousands of families were cut off power supply, roads blocked.
It’s second landfall was in Mozambique, after picking up more energy in the channel on its way from Madagascar. The impacts were more severe in Mozambique than Madagascar. Some parts of the country received 300mm of rainfall and there was widespread infrastructural destruction.
The storm would quickly dissipate before entering Zimbabwe and leaving for the ocean with hardly any significant impact registered.
But much to the shock and surprise of meteorologists, Freddy made a second arrival in the east of Quelimane, Mozambique, bringing torrents of rain and storms to the region.