Malawi Climate Cyclone Freddy

It’s unknown if any students of Norfolk Schools in Malawi were affected by the devastating storm that has left many dead in Norfolk’s sister city of Blantyre, Malawi.

Norfolk resident Joe Mtika — a Malawi native who in 2013 established the school to teach American curriculum to help give students a shot at a U.S. college education — said classes at the school had been canceled through the end of the week as Cyclone Freddy moves out of the area.

“We’re praying for the lives that have been lost and the families that have lost their loved ones,” Mtika said. “We’re also praying for many people that have lost property due to Freddy directly or indirectly like we did at Norfolk Schools in Malawi.”

The cyclone has killed at least 225 people in Malawi's southern region including Blantyre, the country's financial hub, according to local authorities. Another 88,000 people are displaced. In neighboring Mozambique, officials said at least 20 people have died since the storm made landfall in the port town of Quelimane on Saturday night. More than 45,000 people are still holed up in shelters, with about 800 square miles still under water, according to the EU's Copernicus satellite system.

President Lazarus Chakwera declared a “state of disaster” in the country's southern region and the now-ravaged commercial capital, Blantyre.

“Power and communications are down in many affected areas, hindering aid operations,” said Stephane Dujarric, the U.N. Secretary General’s spokesperson at a press briefing Tuesday afternoon. The most affected regions remain inaccessible so the full extent of the damage is so far unknown.

The storm was expected to continue bringing extreme rainfall to the area before exiting back to the sea late Wednesday, according to projections from the U.N.’s meteorological center on the island of Réunion.

Human rights group Amnesty International has called on the international community to mobilize resources and boost aid and rescue efforts in the two countries. Relief efforts in the nations are strained and were already battling a cholera outbreak when Freddy struck.

Mtika said Orphan Grain Train would be shipping a 40-foot container at the end of this month to Norfolk Schools in Malawi with school supplies, food, clothing and humanitarian aid that will be distributed to the underprivileged in Malawi through churches and other para-church organizations with which it partners.

“I have already started hearing some of the more than 20 churches that we partner with asking for any sort of help that we can render,” Mtika said.

While the aid provided by the organization is donated and shipped for free, there is a cost for clearance with the Malawi government to ensure the items will make it to the entities that can distribute them to those in need, Mtika said.

Norfolk Schools in Malawi closed earlier this week as a precautionary on advice from the Malawi government, Mtika said.

Thousands of houses have been washed away by the torrential rain or swept away by mudslides. Norfolk Schools in Malawi also has been affected by various aspects of the storm.

“People took advantage of the cyclone and broke into the newly refurbished computer labs and stole computers,” Mtika said. “We’re still doing some assessment, but so far it looks like they went away with three desktops together with monitors, keyboards and mice.”

The computers stolen were bought from Precision IT last year with grant funds from Socrates Foundation Inc. in Wyoming, he said.

Mtika said he hopes the school can finish out the year at the same location: “We’re already planning to build for next semester, but Freddy has exasperated the situation as the structure has been compromised, making the safety of the students and faculty to be in jeopardy.”

Cyclone Freddy has been causing destruction in southern Africa since late February.

It first developed near Australia and is set to be the longest-ever recorded tropical cyclone. It has intensified a record seven times and has the highest-ever recorded accumulated cyclone energy, or ACE, which is a measurement of how much energy a cyclone has released over time. Freddy recorded more energy over its lifetime than an entire typical U.S. hurricane season.

Mtika said it might be several days before he knows if any students of Norfolk Schools in Malawi were directly affected.

“We’re still assessing whether our students have been affected, and we might not know for several days as the rains are still coming down,” Mtika said. “Hopefully towards the end of the week.”

In other news

Over a week after Cyclone Freddy's second and more devastating landfall in Malawi and Mozambique and nearly a month since it battered Madagascar, the effects are still being felt as locals, officials and aid workers continue to uncover the full extent of the cyclone's destruction.

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