Floods devastate Malawi capital with victims airlifted to safety
Floods devastated Malawi capital Lilongwe Friday morning displacing residents, forcing the Malawi Defense Force into aero-rescue response using helicopters.
A number of rivers that feed into the Lilongwe River through one of the largest rivers in the city, Lingadzi River, burst their banks following heavy rains that fell on Thursday night for over six hours.
The floods washed away bridges, crops and submerged homes to hundreds of residents, while children were trapped on their way to school.
Eyewitnesses and local media reported that two school pupils from one of the affected locations in the city were trapped in the floods after a bridge they usually used got washed away and they stood clinging to some of the few standing maize stalks until rescue team arrived.
"It was a very shocking scenario seeing the two pupils aged between 10 and 12 standing in the middle of the floods that went up to their waist and they only had the green maize stalks to cling to for support," an eyewitness told Xinhua.
She said two men braved the floods and swam to the horrified girls in an effort to rescue them but the flooding water raged harder forcing the men to stop the rescue attempts and, instead, let the pupils cling to them for an anchor firmer than the maize stalks.
The Malawi Defense Force came just in time to airlift the stranded four to the relief of the onlookers most of whom were already in tears, according to the eye witness.
Elsewhere downstream similar rescue operations went on and according to the local media about 20 people trapped in the floods were airlifted to safety by the Malawi Defense Force helicopters.
No death was officially reported following the Friday floods but crops and property worth millions of dollars have been destroyed in the areas along the affected river banks.
Floods were also reported in Malawi's lakeshore district of Salima where residents were also displaced and their property destroyed following the rains that also fell on Thursday night.
Over the years floods have hit the southern region of Malawi especially the border districts of Nsanje, Chikwawa and Phalombe.
The Lilongwe flooding incident on Friday was the first of its kind in the city and it has left residents along the river banks fearing for their lives.
Recently the Malawi government announced through the Department of Disaster and Management Agency that it had prepositioned rescue mechanisms in all flood-prone areas and that the department was ready to handle any disaster including where aero-rescue operations would be required.