Six people have died after being washed away by flood waters along Mchesi Stream in Lilongwe following a heavy downpour that started on Saturday afternoon.
The floods have displaced 202 households most of whom had their dwelling houses brought down and household property washed away, according to Lilongwe City Council (LCC).
Ruth Jalasi of Area 22 is lucky to be alive to tell the sad story of how she saw water flowing into her house at around 4.30pm, but did not envision the devastation that the water would bring her family.
She said: “I heard a roar, then when I peeped [through the window] to see what was happening, I saw a lot of water coming into our house. I just managed to get the kids out of the house and went to our neighbours’ houses which are on higher ground. I saw my house getting immersed in water. Within a short period only the roof was seen. I have never seen such waters in my life.”
Jalasi, a mother of five children, said together with her husband, she just managed to save their lives, but all their property was damaged.
She said: “Even though our house hasn’t been washed away, everything that we had was covered with water and it is full of mud now as you can see. This is bad. The water that came to my house I believe was that water that was bouncing back from the culverts at the main bridge along Chidzanja Road because the culverts are very old.”
She refused to believe her house was affected because it was built along the river banks.
“My house is not in the river banks. It has got all the city council papers, including beacons. This is just a disaster,” Jalasi said.
In Kawale, Livani Phiri has lost five houses which have been completely washed away.
“I am a landlord. Five of my houses have gone even my house which I live in has been damaged. This is really sad. We are just happy that the ordeal happened in the afternoon. We were able to save lives, but the belongings have all gone. All we need is government to help us with these rains coming we are so much afraid,” he said.
While some residents of Kawale, Area 22 and Biwi can count houses and household goods as lost, six people were not so lucky.
According to Lilongwe City Council disaster desk officer Catherine Kunje, only two people have been injured and are being treated as inpatients at Kamuzu Central Hospital.
She said: “Six people—four male and two female—are confirmed dead. For now, I can’t tell you if children are among the dead. But it’s men and women. Only two have sustained injuries and are being treated at KCH, about 202 households have been affected and we believe that the figure might rise.”
Vice-President Saulos Chilima, in his capacity as Minister responsible for Disaster Management Affairs, visited the affected families yesterday afternoon and pledged government’s commitment to help the affected.
Describing the situation as a tragedy, the Vice-President said government will buy coffins for the deceased.
He said: “What has happened here is another tragedy. We have heard that six have died already and a few more are missing. We pray the figures don’t rise.
“What we have seen here is much similar to what we saw earlier in the year. We are going to discuss that later. What is important now is to rescue the people and establish shelters for the victims and then we can discuss how we can alert people to prevent future problems as the rainy season continues.
“We already have in our warehouse items such as mattresses, for now we are going to be deploying government resources beginning this afternoon. Environmental degradation is the cause of such tragedies, as I said already that will be a topic for another day, we will discuss how we can look at construction and development near water sources.”
About 202 households have been affected with most of them having nowhere to sleep along the stream starting from Area 22, passing through Biwi and down to Kawale townships, destroying brick fences of churches and schools, four main bridges and culverts.
About five church buildings among them Area 22 Assemblies of God, Deeper Life Church in Kawale, African Church and Destiny Church have been affected.
There is further damage to fences of three private schools belonging to Charismatic High School in Area 22, Shareworld Primary School in Mchesi and Deeper Life Primary School in Kawale as well as part of Chipasula Secondary School.
The most affected areas are the highly populated parts in Lilongwe where most of the dwellers have low-earning incomes and most of the houses that have been completely demolished are those built using mud bricks.
Government has since said the distribution of relief items will begin today after they have finalised the assessment of the victims while construction of temporary shelters has started.
The Lilongwe disaster came barely 24 hours after floods caused havoc at Phwezi in Rumphi, displacing people and destroying their houses.