Since the onset of the rainy season to date from November 24, six districts — Dowa, Kasungu, Mchinji, Mwanza, Nkhata Bay and Nkhotakota — have been affected with disasters mainly from stormy rains, flash floods, strong winds, hailstorms, heavy rains and lightning.
This is contained in the status report prepared by the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA), saying it also received preliminary reports on recent disasters from Balaka, Chiradzulu, Nkhotakota, Mangochi, Ntcheu and Thyolo, whose councils are conducting assessments to establish the extent of damage.
“A total of 477 households (approximately 2,146 people) have been affected,” said the statement. “Two deaths caused by lightning strikes have been recorded in Kasungu District.
“Currently, the department has reached out to 291 affected households — representing 61% of the total number of those affected — with food and non-food items, which include maize, beans, blankets, pails and plastic sheets for temporary roofing.
“Provision of relief assistance is on-going and the Department, in collaboration with various humanitarian partners, will reach out to all the affected people as per the reports from affected councils.”
To avert been affected by the rainstorms, DoDMA thus urges public to pay closer attention to daily weather forecast to reduce the likelihood of being struck by lightning and postponing all open space activities if forecast calls for thunderstorms.
They are asked to seek enclosed shelter immediately such as homes, offices, shopping centres, classrooms, churches, mosque among others when caught out in the open during thunderstorms.
At all costs, people are warned never seek shelter under the tree during thunderstorms as trees attract lighting strike.
DoDMA’s commissioner for disaster management affairs, Charles Kalumba assured the public that they shall be duly informed regarding the status of disasters and any related developments.
Meanwhile, in its summary of weather ahead from Sunday to December 3, the Department of Climate Change & Meteorological Services alerts the public to expect scattered thunderstorms and locally heavy rains from Wednesday, November 29 to Sunday over many places.
Otherwise, mostly sunny and very hot conditions mainly over the south with isolated cases of thunderstorms with rain today and tomorrow (November 27-28), said the update.
“Moderate Mwera winds are also expected from Wednesday night over lake water bodies including Lake Malawi.
“Thoughout last week, dry conditions were observed over many areas but some few places experienced cloudy conditions with heavy thunderstorms and rainfall.
“The highest was Ntchisi Boma that reported 10.5mm on November 22 while on November 24, Phalombe reported 21.7mm, Chichiri 7mm and Mimosa 6.2mm.
“It was warmer across the country than past years’ temperatures for the month of November with highest positive anomaly of 5°C were observed over Ngabu Meteorological station on November 20, 2023.”
As advisories for this week, the Met Department also warns that thunderstorms are often associated with lightning and possible damaging winds — therefore, people should stay in a safe and closed shelter whenever a thunderstorm is within vicinity until it dissipates.
The public is also encouraged to reinforce or strengthen their houses to make them less susceptible to damage from strong winds and to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day, “even if you don’t feel thirsty”.
Onsets of the rainfall season for most areas are starting this week — thus people are encouraged to visit the link: https://www.metmalawi.gov.mw/dccms_seasonal_forecast.php to access their district forecast.
Public opinion is of the view that though the Department of Climate Change & Meteorological Services always updates the general populace of weather patterns, many do not follow some precautions that go along with the forecasts.
When Cyclones Ana and Gombe were detected where they originated from last year, Malawians were aptly warned of their likely force but the effects the storms left in their wake through the flash floods were completely unexpected.
The same happened for Cyclone Freddy when the public was alerted long before it hit the Mozambican coast from the Indian Ocean up until the first wave retreated to the ocean before coming back to shore with vengeance.
Since Cyclone Idai in 2019, the authorities and many other stakeholders had been advocating that these tropical storms are due to climate change while their destructive effects are because the country is depleted of its environment whose trees play a huge part in damage control when the rivers flood.
Cyclone Ana devastated many public infrastructure and the most destructed was Kapichira Hydro Power plant in Chikwawa, whose effects disturbed economic business activities as it lost 130 megawatts off the grid.
While Cyclone Freddy in March was more powerful and damaged strong public and private infrastructure than Ana and Gombe combined, Kapichira restoration works were never affected.
Electricity Generation Company (Malawi) Limited (EGENCO) management told journalists soon after Kapichira was restored that they learnt a huge lesson from Cyclone Ana and once the meteorological experts warned of the impending Cyclone Freddy, they executed plans they set to protect their infrastructure as well as their restoration process.
However, our reliable sources — which even EGENCO management confirmed — indicate that Kapichira Dam and its other infrastructure had the capacity to survive the flooding from Cyclone Ana if all of its four gates were opened to ease the strong water flow.
Two of the four gates were not functional — thus the water was being held back and flooding the dam to over capacity and finally the dam’s embarkment gave in after the fuse plug (an emergency spillway) was damaged.
“As soon as the water dissipated, EGENCO management swiftly repaired the nonfunctional gates before all processes of restoration of the dam were rolled out,” said our source. “Warnings for Cyclone Freddy came when the reconstruction was in progress and near completion and as soon as the storm hit, EGENCO opened all gates — thus it had the capacity to handle and cushion any impact as the water flowed easily through all four gates.
“Cyclone Freddy was stronger than Ana and Gombe combined. Those four gates could have withstood the force of the water because, just as Meteorological Department alerted the nation on Freddy, so too they did for Ana and Gombe,” said our source.
The devastation of Kapichira Dam also affected construction of the nearby intake of the largest irrigation project in southern Africa — the Shire Valley Transformation Programme (SVTP) — being undertaken by the Malawi government with funding from the World Bank.