20 March 2023
Mtauchira: a devastating landslide in Malawi, triggered by Cyclone Freddy
During February and March 2023, Cyclone Freddy tracked across the Indian Ocean, bringing widespread but under-reported destruction to Mauritius, Reunion, Madagascar, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. It is estimated that over 800 people have been killed or are missing as a result of the storm, and more than a million people have been directly impacted. As usual, most of the destruction was caused by water, of which landslides were a significant part.
Reuters has a video story about the village of Mtauchira in Malawi, which was devastated by a landslide triggered by heavy rainfall associated with Cyclone Freddy. Yahoo has some text about the landslide too, indicating that it killed 32 people and left a further 18 missing. The video should be visible here:-
This image, taken from the video, is a stunning illustration of the impact of the failure:-
Whilst this is a view from the crown of the landslide:-
This clearly started as a shallow landslide on a steep, deforested slope. The main body of the landslide would be termed in Hong Kong as an open hillslope landslide, taking the form of a debris flow. It is clear that the initial failure has entrained a large volume of colluvium from the slope to create the main landslide. The devastating impact on the houses at the foot of the slope is clear.
At the moment I am unsure as to the location of Mtauchira – it does not seem to appear in the geonames databases that I usually use.
Separately, the Secretary General and CEO, of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Jagan Chapagain, tweeted this video of a mudflow in Malawi, also triggered by Cyclone Freddy. The location of this event is not specified, but it illustrates the destructive power of these landslides:-
Tropical Cyclone #Freddy made landfall in Malawi causing widespread devastation.
Reports indicate that the cyclone disrupted lives and livelihoods of too many people.
— Jagan Chapagain (@jagan_chapagain) March 14, 2023