Malawi deployment by Sergeant Dani Scott RAMC

“I am a Reserve Combat Medical Technician with 208 Field Hospital in Liverpool, my day job is with Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service. When Cyclone Freddy hit Malawi, I volunteered to be a part of the Merseyside contingent of the UK International Search & Rescue (UKISAR) team.

Tropical Cyclone Freddy was a record-breaking storm that astonished meteorologists for its longevity (over 5 weeks, Feb/March 2023).  As part of its final act, the cyclone unleashed destructive floods and landslides on Malawi and Mozambique. The storm displaced at least 500,000 people in Malawi as houses slid from their foundations or were swept away, with the largest impacts in the Chikwawa, Nsanje, and Mulanje districts.  More than 500 deaths and 2000 injuries had been reported as a result of the cyclone.

Through the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO), the UK provided an emergency package of assistance comprising of emergency medical personnel, international search & rescue expertise, specialist boats plus urgently needed relief items such as shelter and water filters. UKISAR deployed a 27 strong team made up of firefighters and staff from 14 UK Fire & Rescue services.

Malawi – locals waiting to be rescued

The UKISAR team were able to access areas in Nsanje that no other search and rescue teams were able to get to. We set up a base of ops in Bangula, the journey there was a challenge in itself; a flight from Birmingham to the capital of Malawi (Lilongwe), followed by a six-hour road move and a helicopter flight.  A standard day saw boat rescue teams working tirelessly in challenging, hot and humid conditions, locating and evacuating people from isolated communities to the safety of the Bangula displacement camp.  Along with boat operators, the team had specialist drone pilots to assist with recces and locating cut off people. The daily routine also involved training the Malawi Defence Force on water rescue, the use of our boats and the daily fuel run. Collecting fuel consisted of a two hour round trip by road and several river crossings by foot, presenting the logistical challenge of arranging vehicles to collect the team after crossing each river.

Reservist Dani Scot

Reservist Dani Scott with locals

The seven-day UKISAR response resulted in 358 rescues and assistance in 4 complex medical needs cases.  The Governments Emergency Deployment Team (EDT2) programme funded the mission, which also involved the distribution of food and the donation of three boats, equipment, and the provision of training.  This is the second deployment of UKISAR this year with many team members on the Malawi deployment recently returning from the devastating earthquakes in Turkey.

Reserve Forces