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Floods Kill at Least 260 in Malawi, Mozambique, and Madagascar

By: Jeff Masters 4:35 PM GMT on January 19, 2015

In what is likely to be one of 2015's deadliest natural disasters, two weeks of heavy rains have hit the southeastern African nations of Malawi, Mozambique, and Madagascar, triggering rampaging floods that have killed at least 260 people and left 260,000 homeless, said Bloomberg News today. Hardest hit was Malawi, where 176 people are dead or missing and 200,000 homeless. According to EM-DAT, the international disaster database, only one other flood disaster has killed more people in Malawi: the floods of March 10, 1991, with a death toll of 472. That flood was also the most expensive weather-related natural disaster in their history, with damages estimated at $24 million (1991 dollars.) The floods of 2015 may be ten times more expensive: last week, Malawi requested humanitarian assistance of $430 million for recovery efforts. Many areas remain cut off, with aid workers struggling to provide food to the hardest-hit southern portion of the country. The heaviest rains in Malawi came on January 13, when Chileka, Malawi measured 6.57" (167 mm) of rain in 24 hours. The tropical disturbance that spawned these heavy rains moved over Mozambique on January 14, triggering flooding that killed at least 71 people there. The next day, the disturbance moved over the Mozambique Channel between Mozambique and Madagascar, becoming Tropical Storm Chedza, which hit Madagascar on January 16, killing 13 people on the island. Ocean temperatures were up to 0.6°C (1.0°F) above average in the Mozambique Channel, which contributed to the high rainfall rates observed with Chedza and its precursor disturbance.

Figure 1. A bridge destroyed by flooding at Nchalo in Chikwawa, Malawi, the week of January 13, 2015. Image credit: Source: Department of Disaster Management Affairs, Malawi.

Figure 2. VIIRS image from January 13, 2015 showing a tropical disturbance over Malawi that would later become Tropical Storm Chedza (left side of image.) Category 4 Tropical Cyclone Bansi is seen to the east of Madagascar (right side of image.) Image credit: NOAA Visualization Lab.

Jeff Masters


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