Death toll at 45, survivors narrate ordeal

The death toll following floods that hit the country last week has risen from 30 to 45 as of Monday, the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) has said.

Dodma said 577 people have been injured while two are reported missing.

The floods, which resulted from incessant rains that hit the country from Tuesday to Friday last week, have since displaced 147 958 households representing 739 790 people.

Nkhonde with her year old baby

President Peter Mutharika declared a State of National Disaster in the 14 affected districts and appealed for assistance from well-wishers.

During a visit to Nsanje on Monday, survivors recounted their ordeal.

Nasha Nkhonde, 37, of Tsekwe Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Mlolo in the district left her home at round 6am in search of food.

There was nothing in her house on the particular day to feed her six children and husband. That was on Wednesday, March 6 this year.

By 7am, Nkhonde found fresh maize which she said was enough to feed the family for a day.

In a flash, a roaring sound of water was heard in the village. “I thought it was the wind,” she recalls.

Nkhonde said she moved closer, with her one-year-old baby strapped to her back.

She recalls: “Suddenly, I found myself surrounded with water. I tried to return, but couldn’t move far because water was everywhere.”

Traumatised and gripped with fear, Nkhonde’s only solution was climbing a tree where she ended up spending the night with three others.

She said: “I wrapped my baby in a chitenje since it was very cold. I have seen God.”

Nkhonde had no mobile phone to call her husband for rescue. She recalls calling for help to no avail.

She said: “No one came to my rescue. People could not hear my cries because of flood waters.” 

Her rescue came at around 1 o’clock the next day after village head Chigwamafumu mobilised a team of men with boats to hunt for Nkhonde and others.

Said the chief: “Actually, we had 12 women and a 20-year-old man who were missing. We found them in a tree. Thank God we rescued them all.”

Following the displacement caused by floods, life has not been the same. It is a tough task to catch up.

Juma Chenikisi, 27, from Faniza Village in T/A Mlolo’s area, is married with four children. The disaster happened at around 3am on March 6 when he was asleep.

He said: “I felt very cold. I woke up only to find that my house was flooded.

“I told my wife to pick one child and we started off to the higher ground.”

Chenikisi lost eight goats, among other valuables.

During a visit to his village on Monday afternoon, he was seen erecting a shelter to accommodate his family.

“I am back to zero. It’s a painful moment, but we have to accept it,” said Chenikisi.

Mary Christopher from Akomandialendo Village, T/A Mlolo, is another victim.

She said the floods happened when her family was asleep. However, she and her husband managed to rescue their four children.

Nsanje district commissioner Reinghard Kaweta Chavula told journalists that about 8 000 people are camping at Makhanga camp.

She said the people need medical help because their hospital stands in water.

Chavula said the district has established 21 camps accommodating 16 100 people affected with floods.

The affected TAs include Mlolo, Mbenje, Tengani, Malemia, Ngabu, Chimombo, Nyachikadza and Ndamera.

RESPONSE

On Monday, Dodma presented food and nonfood items to victims of floods in Nsanje.

Dodma Principal Secretary and Commissioner Wilson Moleni said the assistance was coming from government.

“The challenge we have now is to reach to those people trapped. But in collaboration with the Malawi Defence Force [MDF] we have managed to reach those people using choppers. We are also using boats to ferry relief items,” he said.

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