A Scottish aid worker has described the devastation after a horrific cyclone ripped through Africa.
Aberdeen-born Ruaridh Waddell witnessed the terrifying Cyclone Idai wreak its trail of destruction in Malawi – and says that he expects its death toll to be much greater than originally predicted.
The natural disaster has ravaged the likes of Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, with at least 1,000 thought to be dead and hundreds of thousands of people losing their homes.
Mr Waddell, 37, watched from a mountain as devastating floods destroyed villages and homes across the African country’s disaster-hit Shire Valley.
The aid worker with Canadian agency World Renew said: “I was in Malawi when the cyclone hit.
“We’d actually gone away for a hiking weekend on the Thyolo mountains in southern Malawi. We’d heard there was going to be some bad weather, but we didn’t think it was going to be as bad as it was.
“We had incessant rain for five days. The Shire Valley was completely flooded.
“Hiking in the hills above the Shire Valley, we could actually see all the flooding happen below. It was just water as far as the eye could see. Everything is under water.
“The power station went down because all the intakes filled up with trees and branches and rocks. There was no power at all for three days.”
Yesterday the UK Government announced that it was committing £3.4million to help the relief effort in Malawi as part of £20million overall to help with the aftermath of the cyclone.
The Malawi package will be used to provide immediate help to 65,000 Malawians giving them emergency shelter and food for 150,000 people for two months.
Malawian Government and UN figures estimate over 740,000 people in the country are affected, with 75,000 displaced from their homes – and 56 confirmed dead.
Mr Waddell added: “We still have pretty bad weather from the cyclone. It is still raining over Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, which is hampering things considerably.
“Being able to get helicopters and aircraft into the air to actually see the extent of the damage is difficult because of the weather.
“It’s been almost two weeks. Yesterday we got 70mm in about an hour-and-a-half, which is a serious situation for Malawi. Trees are still falling down all over the place.”
Mr Waddell– who studied at both Glasgow and Edinburgh Universities before moving to Malawi in 2005 – said that other colleagues had witnessed even worse incidents.
He said: “What you’ve seen in Malawi is awful but the situation in Mozambique makes it pale into insignificance in some ways.
“A friend of mine is a pilot in Zimbabwe and aid agencies chartered his plane to see if they could get an understanding of the scale and it was shocking.
“The president had said that there are at least 1,000 people killed but from the eyewitness reports we’re getting it is going to be much, much higher.
“I know a guy who was actually trying to get back to Zimbabwe when the cyclone hit and he was forced to abandon his car and walk 25km to find relative safety.
“In the space of four kilometres, he counted between 300 and 500 dead bodies washed up on the side of the road. There will be in excess of 10 or 12 million people affected by this.”