Malawi storm rescue troops spend night on tree

 Two soldiers have spent the night on a tree-top in flood-devastated Malawi to avoid being swept away by the powerful currents of a river below them.

The soldiers were on a mission to rescue flood survivors when their boat capsised, forcing them to swim until they reached a tree.

Southern Malawi has been battered by Tropical Storm, Freddy, with 225 people killed and 20,000 displaced. Rescuers have been using shovels to find survivors buried in mud.

Malawi’s biggest city, Blantyre, has been worst-affected, with many people, includ­ing children, dying in landslides in the hilly city. Some homes have crumbled into flood waters, while others have been entirely swept away.

Recalling how he helped rescue a child, Blantyre resident, Aaron Ntambo, said: “The child was stuck up to her head in the mud. She was crying for help. Even though the water was very strong, we managed to cross and rescue her. It was very difficult but we managed to pull her out”.

The government has declared a state of di­saster in 10 districts that have been hardest-hit by the storm.

The collapse of roads and bridges has hampered rescue operations, while helicop­ters have had difficulty flying because of the heavy rains and strong winds, although these have now eased.

The emergency services have been over­whelmed, with the military and police playing a crucial role to rescue communities stranded on higher ground.

The soldiers who took up shelter on a tree-top were on a boat that was dispatched on Tuesday to rescue families trapped in a village in Mulanje district, about 80km (50 miles) from Blantyre.

Two other soldiers and a civilian managed to swim to safety after their boat experienced engine trouble and capsised, but the other two were reported missing, raising fears that they had drowned. —BBC

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