“Freddy” Cyclone in Malawi Report

May 20, 2023

Tropical cyclone Freddy was an exceptionally long-lived, powerful, and deadly storm that traversed the southern Indian Ocean for more than five weeks in February and March 2023 (Sun, Feb 5, 2023 - Tue, Mar 14, 2023)  Freddy is both the longest-lasting and highest-ACE (Accumulated Cyclone Energy) producing tropical cyclone ever recorded worldwide.

It came through Blantyre, Malawi where Beverly and I have have worked with beloved brethren and friends since 1999.  There was a lot of destruction.  LifeNets Australia and LifeNets US have sent are continuing to send funding for repair and relief and we thanks all who have contributed to this relief effort.  Not only have homes been damaged or destroyed, but crops as well.  We will be needing to deal with food shortages before long. 

Here is a report from Daniel Ringo, LifeNets Blantyre area Business Manager and accountant who have just now been able to get out to some of the affected areas to do an assessment. 

March 18, 2023

Dear Victor,

Back in March 2023 you may remember being told that some of the families belonging to UCG Blantyre congregation had been affected by the cyclone freddy leading to displacement and damage of properties especially homes.

This week I had a chance to pay these families a visit to see how their lives were affected by the cyclone and how they are as of to date. It took us this long to physically visit these victims because of the challenges in road access as in the case of the mayaka brethren who stay about 47 kilometers from Blantyre. Thankfully now that we are off the rainy season, most roads have become passable even though most of the roads that were damaged by the cyclone have not been permanently reconstructed.

We first visited the brethren from Mayaka, Zomba. About 9 families live in this remote area. All these families were affected by the cyclone to various degrees. 7 of them were forced to evacuate their homes and seek refuge in a nearby school. Some houses had cracked walls, some had its walls fell off but almost all the houses belonging to these brethren had moisture rising from the uncemented floors triggering water springs hence rendering the homes uninhabitable. It has been close to 2 months since the tragedy and the families that had sought refuge in government built classrooms had no choice but to go back to their houses even though it is very likely that it is not safe to live within the walls of their homes.

Front view of Mrs Mabanja's house with her sitting on the verandah.

In the case of Mrs. Mabanja her once two bedroomed house in now just one room, the rest of the walls collapsed, she says it is by the grace of God that during that fateful night she was awake and she managed to get out of her room and went outside where she watched the walls of her house collapsing except for the living room. On the other hand Mr Namatapanya and his wife who fortunately had their house built using burnt bricks unlike many of the surrounding villagers spent several hours of several days drawing water from the water spring that had erupted from the floor of one of their three rooms. All brethren from Mayaka village except one household had lost their pit latrines and bathrooms and they have not been able to build them back due to lack of resources. Majority of people living in this area live in houses built with unburnt bricks which easily melt or dissolve during heavy downpour

In Blantyre, 4 families from the Blantyre congregation were affected. One member who had received his retirement package resorted to using his retirement money to build two semi detached houses to rent out as a way of sustaining himself and his family but those houses could not survive the cyclone. Another member living in an area where security at night is a big problem lost a part of his security fence.

In this report I have mentioned just a few individual households to keep this report brief but in general, all these victims have not recovered from the loss with resources to rebuild being the biggest challenge. For most of these brethren it will be ideal to rebuild the perimeter or the outer walls of their houses with burnt bricks just to avoid experiencing the same tragedy next time there is heavy rainfall. While few of the houses will need repairs on the weakened walls only. Out of the 9 households in Mayaka only two still have their pit latrines and bathrooms, a possible threat to hygiene especially this time around when Malawi is still battling cholera outbreak

Other than these 13 households, one cannot help but foresee extreme scarcity of food in the near future because a lot of crops were washed away by the floods and adding to that only few managed to buy fertilizer due to hiked cost of a bag of fertilizer which more than doubled rendering it unaffordable by farmers.

I have attached a few pictures that I managed to capture

Dan R Ringo

WhatsApp Image 2023-03-16 at 10.23.41 PM

This used to be a kitchen and storage room before the cyclone

Mr. Hussein's house

Mary Mabanja's house

Dennis Chinangwa's wall

Margret Gomani's house

Zione Chiumbuzo's house still has another crack separating the remaining outer wall from the adjacent walls

LifeNets pickup truck parked right next to a fallen wall at a member's home

One of the cracks in Mr Kawinga's house from Blantyre

One of Mr Hussein's houses completely evacuated by his tenant

After his retirement Mr Hussein built these houses to rent out. But they counl not withstand the cyclone

Side view of Mrs Mabanja's house