At least 99 people were confirmed dead on Monday after Cyclone Freddy hit southern Malawi, the country’s commissioner for disaster management affairs, Charles Kalemba, told CNN.
Most of the deaths have occurred in Blantyre, Malawi’s commercial capital, according to Kalemba.
“We have recorded 99 deaths in around seven councils, with Blantyre city being the highest with 85 dead and around 134 people in Blantyre alone hospitalized,” Kalemba told CNN on Monday evening. He warned that the number of dead and injured could rise.
The government of Malawi has declared a “state of disaster” in the southern region of the country.
The country’s president, Lazarus Chakwera, “noted with deep concern the devastation that Cyclone Freddy is currently bringing to most districts in the southern region of Malawi,” a government press release said.
“As a result, the government is already responding to emergencies, providing emergency assistance to all affected districts and appealing for local and international support for all families affected by this disaster,” the statement continued.
Schools will remain closed in 10 of the worst affected districts until Wednesday, Malawi’s Ministry of Education said in a statement on Sunday.
Earlier Monday, Malawi Police spokesman Peter Kalaya told CNN the destruction caused by the storm had flooded roads and triggered power outages in the worst affected areas.
Kalemba said the rescue efforts were “difficult”.
“We still have a lot of rain falling. We are currently experiencing landslides, flash floods and rocks rolling down some hills. Due to the weather, the rescue efforts are not easy. Some of the places where we have to go to rescue people, it’s not easy to get there. It’s tough, but we make sure we do the job we need to do,” he said.
Deadly Cyclone Freddy broke records for the longest such storm and hit neighboring Mozambique as well as Madagascar, killing more than 20 people and displacing thousands more in both countries.
It has been described as a “very rare” storm by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which called its course so far “incredible and dangerous”.