A Gem Mining Region Crisis: What Cyclone Freddy left behind: complete devastation.
by Alfred Noah
Artisanal Miner, Malawi and Mozambique
Over 500,000 people displaced.
Approximately 577 mining camps affected.
Over 500 dead.
Over 500 still missing.
Tropical Cyclone Freddy was an exceptionally long-lived, powerful, and deadly storm. It began near Australia’s west coast, in the first week of February, travelled west across the southern Indian Ocean for more than five weeks, and then made landfall when it reached Madagascar.
Freddy first hit near Mananjary, Madagascar. Still traveling west, the storm rapidly weakened as it made its way overland, but regained its strength in the Mozambique Channel. Shortly afterward, Freddy made second landfall just south of Vilankulos, Mozambique, before rapidly weakening again.
Unexpectedly, the storm system managed to survive its visit in Mozambique and emerged back over the channel on March 1st. Soon afterwards, and continuing to gain strength again, Freddy was re-classified as a tropical cyclone. Over the course of the next 10 days, Freddy rapidly intensified and eventually hovered near Quelimane, Mozambique.
Then, as if it hadn’t done enough, it moved further inland, northwest, towards Malawi.
“Malawi was actually the hardest-hit. Non-stop heavy rains caused catastrophic flash floods, with my home town of Blantyre suffering the brunt of it,” says Alfred Noah, artisanal miner, and author of this report.
The nation’s power grid was crippled, with its hydroelectric dam rendered inoperable.
Power and communication lines down throughout the region. It has been 2 months since Cyclone Freddy.
Bridges, and roads, many of which are impassable.
Homes destroyed by flooding.
Taking a broad view, this was farmland. Now, it is ruined.
Sad Numbers for the Area
Overall, the cyclone killed at least 1,434 people: at least 1,216 people were killed in the onslaught of Freddy with 537 people still missing, and presumed dead in Malawi, 198 in Mozambique, 17 in Madagascar, 2 in Zimbabwe, and 1 in Mauritius, making it the first tropical cyclone globally to claim at least 1,000 lives since Cyclone Idai in 2019. In the early days of the storm, survivors of the cyclone were seen desperately digging in rubble with their bare hands in hopes that they would find other survivors. Now they are just looking for victims. Numerous dead are being found every day as the aftermath lingers around the affected areas.
What has not really been talked about is that Freddy struck during a widespread cholera outbreak in Mozambique and Malawi. The severe flooding worsened the epidemic.
Mining in Malawi
Not only did the rains cause extensive damage to roads and ports, they also had an enormous impact on mining productivity. Many of the mining sites were destroyed. Most mining pits are now filled with water and eroded soil. It will take a long time to pump out the water, remove the eroded soil, and get back into mining.
In Chikwawa, where most of Malawi agate is being mined, this area was badly affected.
Mine sites in the Phalombe district were also affected. When the storms arrived, workers were forced up into the trees to escape the flooding. They remained there for days until the waters receded.
Other areas affected:
Nkhulambe; important for gem Sodalite.
Chikwawa; where most of Malawi’s agate is being mined, along with corundum, spinel, aqua and zircons are mined here. Until now, most of the mining pits have been closed and work has not resumed.
Phalombe; mines were destroyed, and miners lost close family members. Their farms were washed away, together with the crops, leaving only bare land. I met with a Phalombe miner this past week. His uncle and entire family are still missing. The floods have taken away the whole village.
Malawi Needs Help!
Over 500,000 people were displaced by the storms and they are currently residing in 577 camps. As for taking care of those who are now displaced, efforts are failing. Getting access to shelter, food, water, and education, is troublesome.
“These people really do need help,” pleads Noah. “Of course, they are getting help from different stakeholders, but it’s not enough. We have miners staying in temporary shelters, with no access to food, safe drinking water, and medicine because the Khulambe hospital was destroyed in the floods. People have no proper clothing, food, bedding, etc. since their houses (and everything in them) were taken by the floods. I assure you, these people need all the help they can get. Malawi needs help!”
Special thanks to Alfred Noah and Lee Horowitz for bringing this story to the Roskin Gem News Report.
Images for this report were taken in the past week. This is current news.