Tropical Storm Ana leaves dozens dead in southern Africa

The death toll from a storm that hit three southern African countries rose to 77 on Thursday as rescue teams battled to repair damaged infrastructure and help tens of thousands of victims.

Tropical storm Ana came in torrential rain and landed in Madagascar on Monday before plowing into Mozambique and Malawi.

Rescue workers and authorities in the three countries were still evaluating the full extent of the damage, even when another storm formed in the Indian Ocean.

Madagascar declared a state of national catastrophe on Thursday night when the death toll rose to 48.

Mozambique reported 18 deaths while 11 had died in Malawi.

Remains of the storm have passed through Zimbabwe, but no deaths have been reported there.

In the three hardest hit countries, tens of thousands of homes were damaged. Some collapsed during the heavy rain and caught victims in the rubble.

Swollen rivers washed away bridges and submerged fields, drowned livestock and destroyed the livelihoods of rural families.

In Madagascar, 130,000 people fled their homes. In the capital, Antananarivo, schools and gyms were turned into shelters.

“We only took our most important belongings with us,” Berthine Razafiarisoa, who took shelter at a gym with her family of 10, told AFP.

In northern and central Mozambique, Ana destroyed 10,000 homes and dozens of schools and hospitals while power lines were cut.

Mozambique and international weather services warned that another storm, called Batsirai, has formed over the Indian Ocean and is expected to land in the coming days.

It “could develop into a severe tropical storm in the next few days,” the UN said in a statement.

Up to six tropical cyclones are expected before the rainy season ends in March.

“The situation is extremely worrying” and “the vulnerability is very, very high,” said Myrta Kaulard, the UN’s coordinator for Mozambique.

“The challenge is titanic, the challenge is extreme,” she said, noting that the storms hit “an already extremely vulnerable” region that is still trying to recover from cyclones Idai and Kenneth that hit the region in 2019.

“Mozambique is responding to a complex crisis in the north that has put another enormous strain on the country’s budget, on the population,” Kaulard said. “In addition, there is also Covid.”

In neighboring Malawi, the government declared a state of natural disaster.

Most of the country lost electricity at the beginning of the week, after the floodwaters hit power plants. The power was restored on Thursday in parts of the country, but parts of the electricity grid were destroyed.

“Our priority now is to restore power to health facilities, water treatment systems and schools,” the national power plant said in a statement.

Southern Africa, and especially Mozambique, has been hit by destructive storms repeatedly in recent years.

(AFP)

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