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Cyclone Freddy returns killing 15 in Malawi, Mozambique

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BLANTYRE, MALAWI: Fifteen people have died in Malawi and Mozambique as Cyclone Freddy hit the two countries with torrential rains and strong winds upon its return to southern Africa's mainland, authorities said on Monday.

Police in Malawi said 11 people died in areas surrounding the southern city of Blantyre, where heavy rains triggered flooding as the cyclone made a comeback, just weeks after it first struck the continent.

At least 16 more people were missing and four injured, according to a preliminary count, police said.

Four more people died in neighbouring Mozambique, local authorities said, as an assessment of the damage was underway after the storm made its second landfall in the country on Saturday.

Earlier police said they found the body of a three-year-old girl after a water stream breached its banks washing away houses built along its course.

Malawi's government ordered schools in ten southern districts to remain closed until Wednesday, with rains and winds expected to continue to batter the nation's south.

National carrier Malawi Airlines said all flights to Blantyre have been cancelled until further notice after an inbound plane ran into the bad weather mid-flight and was forced back to the capital Lilongwe.

Freddy reached the landlocked country early on Monday morning after sweeping through Mozambique at the weekend.

In Mozambique, at least three people died in Namacura, a town in the central Zambezia province, according to district head Moura Xavier.

One more was reported dead at the weekend, after a house collapsed in the nearby district of Zalala.

The death toll was expected to increase, as authorities worked to reach all affected areas.

"We are experiencing communication difficulties and this situation does not allow us to have reliable tolls," said Health Minister Armindo Tiago.

Guy Taylor, a spokesman for the UN children's agency UNICEF, said rains had abated on Monday but the hard-hit coastal city of Quelimane remained without access to clean running water. — AFP

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