At least 99 people have been killed in Malawi after tropical cyclone Freddy lashed the east African nation, authorities said on Tuesday, adding that a rescue mission is currently underway.
Confirming the toll to reporters late Monday, Commissioner for the Department of Disaster and Management Affairs (DoDMA) Charles Kalemba said that 85 fatalities were recorded in the commercial city of Blantyre alone, reports Xinhua news agency.
Kalemba said Blantyre has recorded 134 serious injuries while several other injuries and loss of property have been recorded across the 10 districts that have been heavily affected by the cyclone.
The deaths were caused due to the collapse of residential houses, flash floods, and landslides in the affected districts including Blantyre where one of the mountains, Soche, broke loose releasing a huge flow of water, heavy rocks, and mud that swept a number of homes and buried residents in the process.
The cyclone has also destroyed power generation infrastructure, leaving almost the entire country in blackout since Monday morning. Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera has declared a state of emergency in the 10 districts that have been heavily affected in the southern region.
Freddy is the strongest tropical cyclone on record and could also be the long-lasting one, according to the World Meteorological Organization. On Sunday, it struck Mozambique as a cyclone for the second time in a less than a month after battering the island nation of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, causing severe destruction.
It has been difficult to determine the extent of the damage caused in Mozambique and the number of deaths as power supply and phone signals were cut off in some parts of the affected areas.
Freddy also broke records for the strength it has accumulated over the 8,000-km path it travelled across the Indian Ocean from north-western Australia.