GloFAS Bulletin Article, April 2023
Tropical Cyclone Freddy, South East Africa, March 2023
Tropical Cyclone Freddy made a dramatic second landfall in Mozambique before heading to southern Malawi, causing catastrophic flooding in both countries in March 2023.
Freddy had been a named tropical cyclone for over 30 days before reaching Malawi. The storm had crossed the entire South Indian Ocean and travelled more than 8,000 kilometres, affecting Mauritius and La Réunion on its long journey en route to making landfall in Madagascar on 21 February 2023.
Tropical Cyclone Freddy then spent several days tracking over Mozambique, bringing heavy rains to areas that had already experienced severe flooding during February.
Freddy looped back towards the Mozambique Channel and the southwestern coast of Madagascar, causing further flooding and damages on 05 March, before returning to Mozambique for a second time, and then on to Malawi.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) described Freddy as a “remarkable storm” and planned a detailed examination to determine whether Freddy was the longest-duration tropical cyclone on record.
“World record or not, Freddy will remain in any case an exceptional phenomenon for the history of the South-West Indian Ocean on many aspects: longevity, distance covered, remarkable maximum intensity, accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) amount, impact on inhabited lands …” said Sebastien Langlade, Head of Operations at RSMC La Réunion.
Over 72,600 people were affected by the storm’s second impact in Madagascar, mostly in the southwest of the country. According to reports by the National Bureau of Risk and Disaster Management (BNGRC), the storm caused 17 fatalities in total (07 from the first landfall on 21 February and 10 in early March), with nearly 300,000 people affected (226,000 in the southeast in February and over 72,600 in the southwest in early March). The UN said that an estimated 148,000 are in need of humanitarian assistance as a result.
Freddy made its second landfall in Mozambique during the evening of 11 March 2023 in Zambézia province. As much as 400 to 500 mm of rain was predicted in areas close to the landfall location. This is more than twice the usual monthly rainfall.
In the days following the second landfall, Mozambique’s National Institute for Disaster Risk Management and Reduction (INGD), reported 27,893 buildings destroyed and 49,159 people displaced across the provinces of Niassa, Zambezia, Tete, Manica and Sofala.
Copernicus Emergency Management Service (CEMS) was activated to map flooded areas of Zambezia Province. (link: https://emergency.copernicus.eu/mapping/list-of-components/EMSR654 )
Previously, over 170,000 people were affected by heavy rains and floods following Storm Freddy’s first landfall in the country on 24 February.
The United Nations said that a combination of multiple crises - flooding in southern and central areas in February, rising cholera cases and Tropical Cyclone Freddy – were compounding to create a severe humanitarian situation in Mozambique. As many as 183 people are thought to have died as a result of flooding and Storm Freddy in February and March.
Tropical Cyclone Freddy entered Malawi on 12 March 2023 near the city of Nsanje in the Southern Region. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Malawi estimated Cyclone Freddy dumped the equivalent of 6 months of rainfall in 6 days. The rain caused widespread flooding and catastrophic landslides and mudslide, in particular in areas around Blantyre.
As of 30 March 2023, the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA) in Malawi reported 659,278 people were displaced across the districts of Balaka, Blantyre City, Blantyre District, Chikwawa, Chiradzulu, Machinga, Mangochi, Mulanje, Mwanza, Neno, Nsanje, Phalombe, Thyolo, Zomba City and Zomba District. DoDMA said 676 people had lost their lives with many still reported missing.
Image 1: Floods in Mozambique following Cyclone Freddy, March 2022. Credit: WFP Mozambique
Image 2: Damage caused by Cyclone Freddy in Malawi, March 2023. Credit: Malawi Red Cross Society
Image 3: Flooded areas of Malawi after Tropical Cyclone Freddy, March 2023. Credit: Department of Disaster Management Affairs, Malawi
Image 4: Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) – DG ECHO Daily Map | 31/03/2023 Malawi, Mozambique, Madagascar | Tropical Cyclone FREDDY and floods. Credit: European Union, 2023. Map produced by the JRC.
(link to full version: https://erccportal.jrc.ec.europa.eu/ECHO-Products/Maps#/maps/4452 )
By Richard Davies April 12, 2023, 1:44 p.m.