The Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) says efforts to retrieve five people buried in rubble after rainstorm hit Tcharo in Rumphi are proving futile because of lack of machinery.
Dodma Rumphi district disaster risk management desk officer Alufeyo Mhango said in a statement there is no success so far in the search.
He said: “As the district team left, Malawi Defence Force [MDF] soldiers were already at the scene trying to devise ways on how the bodies can be retrieved from the rubble.
“There is need though for heavy equipment to try to retrieve the missing persons, but it will be difficult for the equipment to reach the site.”
The place also has no mobile phone network connectivity, thereby complicating response efforts.
Heavy rains accompanied by a storm on Saturday night blew off roofs of some residential houses as well as churches and shops as flood waters carried heavy rocks that ravaged several houses.
The incident left three people dead, nine injured and five missing. Of the five, three are children.
The missing persons are Joyce Nyachingati Nyirenda, 46, from Zakazaka Village, Stargate Kondowe, 10, from Msuku Village, Rhoda Msiska, 35, from Zakazaka Village, Frarley Kondowe, six, of Msuku Village and Alenzi Kondowe, one, also from Msuku Village all in Sub-Traditional Authority (ST/A) Chapinduka.
The five are believed to be buried under huge rocks that descended from Mphompha hills.
During a visit to the area on Sunday, several houses were seen destroyed to rubble with others in inhabitable state.
Household belongings swept away include kitchen utensils, sofa sets, electronic appliances, clothes, food and iron sheets. Some of these items are seen in the debris, while some are floating in the lake.
MDF soldiers are on site trying to devise ways on how the missing bodies can be retrieved from the rubble.
Village head Zakazaka said the body of one of the victims, Jenala Luwe, 75, was found near Lake Malawi, about 500 metres away.
Luwe’s house was completely destroyed as were two houses of her neighbours, five of whom are still missing.
The site, which is closer to the hills, is a risky area, as any heavy downpour could lead to landslides that may cause devastating effects as those seen on Saturday.
The houses were extensively damaged and are completely covered by heavy rocks, while the shores of Lake Malawi in the area are also covered in rocks and big tree-logs that have done extensive damage.
Besides Luwe, the other deceased persons were identified as 12-year-old Method Kondowe and Burton Kondowe, 15, all from Msuku Village.
The nine injured persons have been admitted to Tcharo Mission Hospital, Rumphi District Hospital and David Gordon Memorial Hospital at Livingstonia.
During a visit to Rumphi District Hospital on Sunday, the victims were still in pain, but district medical officer Westain Nyirenda said the situation was improving.
While the search continues, families are destitute and in need of food, clothes and safe water. Those displaced are seeking refuge at Msuku Primary School which has also been partly damaged.
By Sunday, Rumphi District Council had only distributed black plastic sheets as a starter pack.
Dodma records show that 20 households or about 100 people have been affected.
Meanwhile, Dodma director for response and recovery Harris Kachale has assured the community of government response.
In early March, tropical Cyclone Idai formed in the Mozambique Channel drifted to Malawi on March 5 causing heavy rains accompanied by strong winds. The heavy and persistent rain led to severe flooding across some districts in southern Malawi.
About 868 900 people have been affected, including more than 86 980 displaced, with 60 deaths and 672 injuries.
In the aftermath of the disaster, Malawi requires K33.5 billion ($45.2 million) out of which K10.8 billion ($14.6 million) has been received or pledged, leaving an outstanding gap of K22.6 billion ($30.6 million) by start of April.