President Peter Mutharika on Friday visited areas hit by floods and cheered victims of the disaster in Mangochi and Balaka districts.
Earlier this week, the Head of State declared a third of the country to be a disaster zone and appealed for help.
Mutharika has called the floods a “national tragedy that urgently needs both local and international response”.
The Malawi leader, who was accompanied by the First Lady Madam Gertrude Mutharika, assured the people affected by the disaster of government’s total support and assistance to minimise their suffering .
He said since the declaration of the flood districts a disaster, there has been overwhelming response from within and outside the country.
The President said the government has received inquiries on the assistance needed from countries such as Sweden, South Africa, United States of America, Botswana among others.
Among other things he said the goverment will immediately give the displaced families most of whom are accommodated in schools, food supplies and provide them with tents.
The death toll from floods ravaging Malawi has risen to 176 with many more missing and 200,000 homeless, Vice President Saulos Chilima said Friday, as more heavy rain was predicted.
Speaking after flying in a military helicopter over the worst affected Lower Shire districts of Nsanje and Chikwawa in the south, he said the country faced “a big challenge”.
Earlier, disaster officials warned that more heavy rain was expected.
“The government is urging people living in flood-prone districts to urgently relocate to upland areas to avoid losing more lives,” said Paul Chiunguzeni, principal secretary for Disaster Management Affairs.
The floods, which have wreaked havoc on half the the country’s 28 districts, have disrupted power supplies, plunging some areas into darkness.
Chirunguzeni said about 1,180 flood victims stranded on patches of high ground had been evacuated since rescue missions with military helicopters and boats were launched Thursday.
In a statement Friday, African Union chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said the organisation would give the “highest priority to providing modest humanitarian assistance” to Malawi “as soon as possible”.
The World Food Programme said it would airlift stocks to flooded areas.
“Ready-to-eat food will be prioritised for the most vulnerable people, particularly children, who have been displaced from their homes and have no access to food or cooking facilities,” the WFP said.
Five major roads in the south have been closed after bridges were washed away, including some on the road to the prime tourist destination of Mangochi on the shores of Lake Malawi.
This made an access to the hardest-hit areas “extremely difficult”, the WFP said.
Hein Zeelie of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the central and northern parts of the country were the agency’s next concern “as we are expecting heavy rains for those areas for the next week”.
“A lot of preparation activities have been taking place for the rainy season, but no matter how well prepared one could have been, the extreme amount of rainfall would have led to this situation.”—(Additional reporting by Felix Mponda, AFP)Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :