Malawi vice president Saulos Chilima says the death toll from floods triples to 176 and at least 200,000 displaced.
Chilima told a news conference in Malawi’s commercial capital Blantyre that dozens of people are still missing, with at least 153 unaccounted for in the worst affected southern parts of the country.
He said a joint operation between police and the Malawi Defence Force was under way to rescue hundreds who were trapped in their villages.
“It’s a very bad situation. I flew over some parts of the Lower Shire but we could not find anywhere to land,” he said of the southern parts of the country. “It’s a big challenge we have before us.”
President Peter Mutharika has declared 15 of the country’s 28 districts disaster areas.
Chilima, who is minister responsible for disaster and relief management, has asked for international assistance.
Rescuers are also trying to find bodies of people believed to have drowned in the Shire River. Some people have also been reluctant to leave their farms and now local elders have been tasked with ensuring everyone is taken to camps on higher, dry land.
The United Nations World Food Programme said it plans to airlift more than 100 metric tons of food to the southern African nation to feed at least 77,000 people.
Tents have been set up for those left homeless, and many have found refuge with friends and neighbours whose homes survived, according to aid organisation Doctors Without Borders.
“The floods are behaving like a slow tsunami with the river swelling progressively downstream toward the south and Mozambique,” said Amaury Gregoire, Doctors Without Borders’ mission head in Malawi.
The international medical organisation said it was concerned that displaced people were also vulnerable to water-borne disease due unsanitary conditions.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :