The Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) says Malawi has assembled a response team to swiftly respond to the impact of any upcoming natural disaster, including the forecasted Tropical Cyclone Chalane.
Briefing journalists in Lilongwe on Wedneday, Dodma commissioner James Chiusiwa said the department has also mobilised resources to facilitate the response, mainly from projected heavy rainfall and floods.
He said Dodma and its stakeholders, including Malawi Red Cross Society and the Department of Climate Change Management and Meteorological Services, will respond to disasters in line with the National Disaster Management Response Plan with an allocation of K2.4 billion in the K2.2 trillion 2020/21 National Budget.
Said Chiusiwa: “We are not panicking. We already developed a national response plan and we also have requests from [district] councils to draw the contingency plan on how they should deal with disasters. We will use the cluster approach to respond to the disaster.
“Already, the search and rescue team, which includes MDF [Malawi Defence Force] soldiers and police officers, met on Saturday. We are going to deploy teams soon.”
He said Dodma will utilise the K500 million first tranche from the approved K2.4 billion allocation. He also expressed optimism that donors and other partners will support government with additional resources.
Chiusiwa said government will erect tents in districts without evacuation centres to ensure that people do not use schools, church or mosque facilities as shelters when they are displaced by disasters.
On his part, Department of Climate Change and Meteological Services director Jolam Nkhokwe said almost all of the country’s 28 districts will be affected by heavy rains and floods in the next seven days.
He observed that only five districts have evacuation centres.
The Met Department announced on Tuesday that Tropical Cyclone Chalane was in neighbouring Mozambique and was accompanied by winds moving at 17 kilometres per hour.
In an interview, Nkhokhwe said the cyclone will induce heavy rains which may lead to heavy flooding for one week.
He said low-lying and lakeshore areas will be the worst affected because they will be receiving water from two sources, notably the rain and flooding water bodies.
Nkhokwe mentioned districts such as Karonga, Nkhata Bay, Salima, Mangochi, Phalombe, Balaka, Chikwawa, Nsanje, Kasungu, Lilongwe and Dedza as those to experience the worst impact.
In terms of precautions, he said people should avoid driving through floods, flooded roads or bridges.
He also encouraged households to move from low-lying flood-prone areas to higher grounds.
Nkhokwe said people should also avoid crossing flooded rivers, roads and drains.
In early March 2019, effects of Cyclone Idai directly affected 975 000 people, rendered 125 382 homeless with 60 killed and 672 injured.
During on Wedneday’s briefing, Malawi Red Cross Society head of disaster management Aston Mulwafu said his organisation has already deployed relief officers in Nsanje and Chikwawa.
Tropical Cyclone Chalane originated from the Indian Ocean in Mozambique due to over-heating of the water body.