Survivors of floods in Malawi call for urgent help as they sift through the debris of their destroyed homes. A total of 176 people have been confirmed dead in the floods, with 153 missing and 200,000 homeless, according to officials. Duration: 01:13
Malawi flood victims call for help
Volunteers join grim search for Malawi flood victims
/ CHILOBWE (Malawi) – 17 January 2015 23:06 – AFP (Felix Mponda) / WRAP
While helicopters and boats fan out across Malawi’s devastated floodlands to search for the living, families and friends of the missing have begun the grim task of digging for the dead.
Armed only with hoes, six young men on Saturday combed the banks of a new watercourse created by flash floods through Chilobwe, a shantytown just five kilometres (three miles) from the commercial capital Blantyre.
Digging at heaps of sand and debris, they were hoping to find the bodies of three people who were swept away five days earlier.
“We have not lost hope. We hope to find the bodies to give our friends a dignified funeral,” Rodney Chikoja, one of the volunteers, told AFP.
Among those missing is a medical student who was set to graduate this year and had returned home for a weekend to visit his parents, who survived the disaster.
A total of 176 people have been confirmed dead in the floods, with 153 missing and 200,000 homeless, according to official figures.
Torrential rains have wreaked havoc across half the impoverished southern African country’s 28 districts, washing away homes, crops and livestock and disrupting power supplies.
Police said four bodies had already been found along the stream through Chilobwe, buried in sand.
“One body was found five kilometres downstream. So you can see how powerful the flood was,” said a constable, who refused to give her name, but said she helped organise the search effort.
Survivor Felistus Selemani said it was a “miracle our family of five is still alive today and our house intact”.
Selemani said it was because their three-bedroomed home was built with bricks and cement that it survived destruction.
“There was fast running water all over our house. It was a terrifying moment and luckily we all survived after what was a nightmare,” Selemani said.
Although it was not raining in Blantyre on Saturday, weather experts said the “risks of flooding are still very high”, mainly in the southern districts of Chikwawa and Nsanje, the worst affected areas.
Across the border in Mozambique, which shares a river system with Malawi, floods have killed at least 21 people and displaced tens of thousands.
“We can account for 21 victims in Zambezia province since the red alert was declared on Monday,” Rita Almeida of the National Disaster Management Institute told AFP.
Around 24,000 people were being assisted in 30 centers in the Niassa and Zambezia provinces, which border Malawi, she said.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said weeks of heavy rains had left tens of thousands of families homeless and in desperate need of support across Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
“Homes have been washed away. Crops have been destroyed. People have lost everything. While many are seeking shelter in schools and churches, we are hearing of families also living under trees,” said Michael Charles, the acting regional representative.
“We need to scale up rapid deployment of resources to ensure these people receive the support they so desperately need.”
The IFRC said an estimated 90,000 people had been displaced in Mozambique, and at least 6,000 in Zimbabwe.