Malawi Helicopters Assist Mozambican Flood Victims

Raphael Tenthani, PANA Correspondent
BLANTYRE, Malawi (PANA) - President Bakili Muluzi of Malawi has directed that two army helicopters be despatched to Mozambique to help in relief and evacuation exercises following devastating floods that have devastated the neighbouring country.

Lucius Chikuni, commissioner for relief and disaster preparedness, said Muluzi ordered the helicopters to be sent to the Mozambican provinces of Sofala and Manica.

"The helicopters and crew will leave on Sunday," he said.

A statement from the Malawi Army said the helicopters and crew will be used to evacuate stranded people, cut off from the rest of the country by swollen rivers that have broken their banks.

They will also be used to airlift relief items.

Muluzi said he met his Mozambican counterpart, Joachim Chissano, in Lesotho where the two leaders attended the royal wedding of King Letsie. He said they discussed the devastating cyclone and Muluzi offered Malawi's help.

"They are our neighbours, their problems are ours too," he said.

Meanwhile, meteorologists in Malawi have warned that the fickle storms that have been devastating southern Malawi since Thursday may continue until Monday.

Unprecedented torrential rains covered some parts of southern Malawi, accompanied by fierce storms that blew off roofs of houses, uprooted trees that in turn blocked roads and ripped off power and electricity lines rendering several parts of Blantyre in darkness and without telephone services.

Municipal workers have been clearing the debris around the clock.

Gray Munthali, principal meteorologist, said this is part of the cyclone that has been devastating several southern African countries including Mozambique, Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

"We knew a cyclone would come but we did not alert people because we did not expect it to have such an impact," he said.

Munthali said the cyclone has been caused by low pressure winds in parts of Mozambique.

The cyclone caused heavy rainfall averaging 90 millimetres in most parts of southern Malawi.

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