Malawi government has deployed military helicopters and boats to rescue flood victims but despite high waters in the lower shire district of Nsanje and Chikwawa, people refused to board the rescued choppers, arguing they could not leave their “own land.”
At least 48 people have been killed and around 23,000 forced from their homes by heavy flooding forcing President Peter Mutharika to declare a third of the country a disaster zone and urgently appealed for foreign aid.
Commissioner for Disaster Management Affairs Paul Chiunguzeni said some floods affected people were adamant that they could not leave their area when rescue crews had come with helicopters.
The villagers refuse to move to higher ground because the soil is too rocky for agriculture.
Nsanje District Commissioner Harry Phiri said about 2,500 villagers managed to flee to hills “but several thousands are still marooned in dry patches of land in the flooded villages.”
About 30 villages have been cut off after the Shire – Malawi’s longest and biggest river – and the Ruo rivers overflowed.
He says the government is handing out relief – including food and water purifying tablets – to up to 5,000 people who are taking shelter in schools and churches and the government
Vice President Saulos Chilima said hundreds of victims stranded on patches of high ground had been rescued, but bad weather challenged the rescue attempt to many people.
“Around 800 people have been rescued from the flooded areas in Nsanje and Chikwawa,” Chilima said in a statement.
Chilima said the country needed more boats, helicopters, food and tents to help the tens of thousands of people affected by the floods.
Chikwawa district commissioner Alex Mdoko said: “We are racing against time to rescue everybody. We want to make sure everybody is safe.”
He said that it was not possible to say how many were missing “until we count everybody and our operation is successful.”
Heavy regional rain began last month and forecasters say they expect it to continue over the coming days.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :