Landslide in northern Malawi kills three, injures many

LILONGWE, MALAWI (AFP) - Three people died after a landslide hit a village in the Rumphi district in northern Malawi, with at least five still missing on Sunday (April 21) and many others injured and hospitalised.

Rumphi police spokesman Tupeliwe Kabwilo told AFP that incessant rains in the area led to the landslide early on Saturday, which washed away an entire village nestled between Mphompha Hills and Lake Malawi.

Among the dead are two boys aged 12 and 15, and a 35-year-old woman, according to police.

The missing people, who are feared dead, include a one-year-old boy, two other boys aged six and 10, as well as two women aged 35 and 46.

A Rumphi district council official who was at the scene of the disaster told AFP that the affected area was inaccessible by road and it would be impossible to mount a rescue operation.

"Huge boulders rolled from the mountain and these are the ones that cause the biggest damage, and if the missing victims are buried under these rocks, then we will need an excavator to move them," said council official Wakisa Mtete.

"But there is no access by road to the area so this is an impossible task. The boulders are so big that moving them by hand is not possible," Mr Mtete said.

He added that it was also possible for some of the missing bodies to have been washed into the lake, in which case, the bodies would resurface within the next two days.

Disaster management officer Alufeyo Mhango told AFP that government ministries were preparing to step in to transport heavy duty excavation equipment over the lake as soon as the weather cleared.

"We have been informed by government ministries that we should get ready to transport the equipment. But this will depend on whether we get a large boat for that and on whether the hailstorm stops because there could be a recurrence of the landslide," he said.

According to Mr Mhango, police officers, soldiers and emergency personnel are on site attending to the disaster.