Hit musician Giboh Pearson survived the devastating floods in southern Malawi by climbing a mango tree.
Pearson, who lives at Bokosi village in the Phalombe district, woke up to find his mattress floating in water.
“At around 4am, I felt like my body was moving. I heard voices shouting my name from outside, and I realised my mattress was floating in water that had filled up the house to waist level. The moment I got out of the house, another powerful body of water arrived and knocked my house to the ground. My car got carried away and smashed into a nearby church and everyone was confused until one man shouted, ‘Let’s climb trees!’.”
Pearson said he and his neighbours, about 14 people, climbed into the mango trees and stayed there for two and a half hours until the waters calmed down.
Cyclone Freddy, the longest cyclone on record, has claimed 220 lives in Malawi and left thousands of people homeless. Fourteen days of national mourning have been declared.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “Cyclone Freddy’s deadly trail of destruction a grim reminder of the need to prioritise climate adaptation”
Pearson, whose song Idzathera mapenate (It will end in penalties) was a hit, says he has lost all his belongings including his recording equipment.
“By the grace of God we survived by climbing into the trees,” he said.
‘Swept us away’
Blantyre, the commercial capital, was badly hit. Watson Kapalamula from Chemusa township in Blantyre says he will never forget the wrath of cyclone Freddy.
“We were in the house on the evening of March 13, when we heard a loud noise, water and stones rolling down in a nearby stream. We came out of the house to check what was happening, and as we were standing at the veranda, in less than two minutes, another loud noise caught our ears and that was the back of our house falling down,” he said. Before he could decide where to run to with his two small children, “a strong moving body of water swept us away”.
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Kapalamula said he and his children had been caught in the branches of a big fig tree about 50m from his house.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “Cholera risk in Malawi climbs as Cyclone Freddy wreaks further havoc”
“If it had not been for that fig tree, I and my children would have been dead by now. God has saved us through nature. People take trees for granted.”
Kapalamula, who is a widower, says he has lost everything including the equipment from his barber shop.
The family is being sheltered in one of the damaged houses and desperately needs food, clothes and bedding, he says.
Cyclone Freddy reached landlocked Malawi early on Monday morning after sweeping through Mozambique over the weekend.
Districts worst hit include Blantyre, Chiradzulu, Chikwawa, Mulanje, Mwanza, Neno, Nsanje, Thyolo, Phalombe and Zomba.
Commissioner for the Department for Disaster Management Charles Kalemba said a state of disaster had been declared and aid, including from the United Nations, would be channelled to those affected. The Ministry of Finance has transferred 1.6 billion kwacha (about R28-million) to disaster management to help victims.
The cyclone started in Australia, passed over the Indian Ocean and landed in Madagascar and Mozambique before wreaking havoc in Malawi. DM
First published by GroundUp.