In southeastern Africa, the death toll continues to rise after the second pass of Cyclone Freddy. The government of Malawi, which was hardest hit, says at least 190 people have already been killed.
Several regions have been declared disaster areas. At more than 31 days, it is the longest-lasting storm on record.
Cyclone Freddy made landfall in Mozambique for the second time on Sunday. Enormous amounts of rain, strong winds and flooding accompanied this. The cyclone then moved on to Malawi.
In Malawi alone, at least 190 people have been killed recently. There are also nearly 600 injured and dozens missing. Many victims fell in the economic capital of Blantyre. In addition, several regions in the country’s south have been declared disaster areas. This is also the case in the region of Blantyre.
This is the second time that Freddy has landed in South East Africa. At the end of February, he crossed Madagascar’s island and landed on the mainland in Mozambique on February 24. The death toll in that first passage varies according to the source; some speak of 27 deaths. After that first pass, the storm moved northward and curved back towards the sea, where it regained strength above the warm seawater.
According to David Dehenauw of the Royal Meteorological Institute (KMI), it is not so exceptional that the same storm makes landfall twice. This often happens in the United States, mainly in Florida, because of the specific coastline. However, hurricanes can also regularly land in one state and then again in another.
For example, the last time a hurricane reversed its course was last September, when Hurricane Ian made landfall in the United States for a second time. But for the southeast coast of Africa, it is special that a storm makes landfall again “because Africa has a different coastline”.
The fact that Freddy has survived so long is due to the very favourable conditions in the region, explains Dehenauw. First, it is summer, and the sea water is warm enough to increase the storm’s strength (hurricanes can only survive if the sea surface temperature is at least 26 degrees). In addition, there is little wind shear, which means that the wind hardly changes in speed and direction.