Malawi intensifies search and rescue for cyclone victims

Malawi intensifies search and rescue for cyclone victims

Men transport their salvaged belongings in Chiradzulu, southern Malawi, Friday March 17, 2023.

Malawi rescue teams started using sniffer dogs Friday to locate the bodies of people trapped under rubble left after Cyclone Freddy destroyed their houses. The Malawi government announced that Zambia has sent two aircraft to help with rescue efforts and more nations are pledging to do so.

Authorities in Malawi are still coming to terms with the scale of Cyclone Freddy’s destruction.

Police spokesperson Peter Kalaya told VOA Friday about the challenges they face locating the remains of people trapped under muddy rubble, which is why sniffer dogs are an asset.

“Most of the dead bodies are under rubble and it is becoming difficult to find out where the bodies are. So, today we engaged these dogs from this morning," Kalaya said.

Early this week, Malawi search and rescue teams — comprised of police, the Red Cross and the military — were deployed to rescue people trapped in trees and rooftops by the cyclone.

Lameck Kalenga is deputy chief of military operations in Malawi.

He told a news conference Thursday that the military team also faced significant challenges.

“Our boat capsized, and we had all occupants in that boat submerged in water," Kalenga said. "They managed to swim, others to the shore but others … they swam on and held on to trees that were surrounded by water. So, we had like three officers who were surrounded by water, but by yesterday [Wednesday] all of them were rescued.”

Authorities in Malawi say there are still many areas that cannot be accessed by either vehicles or boats.

However, the Zambian government Friday sent two aircraft to help the search and rescue team in Malawi access those hard-to-reach areas.

“One of these aircrafts is a relief aid aircraft, which is bringing relief aid to Malawi," Kalenga said. "And the other one is [an] MI8 helicopter, which will be used to gain access in those inaccessible areas. Mainly Mulanje, Phalombe and Nsanje.”

The Department of Disaster Preparedness in Malawi said search and rescue teams from South Africa, Switzerland, the United States and the United Kingdom are expected to arrive soon.

In the meantime, Mozambique has also pledged to assist Malawi with an aircraft.

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Malawi Cyclone Freddy

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