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Flooding From Heavy Rain Leaves at Least 176 Dead in Malawi

Children work to salvage goods washed away by floodwaters in the southern district of Chikwawa, near Blantyre, Malawi, Jan, 15, 2015.

Officials in Malawi say massive flooding has killed at least 176 people and that more rain is in the forecast over the next two to three weeks.

Vice President Saulos Chilima said Friday that the death toll was likely to climb because many people were reported missing. He said some of the worst-hit areas had been cut off because roads and bridges to them were washed out. The government of President Peter Mutharika has asked for international assistance and declared about half the country's 28 districts as disaster areas.

The United Nations estimated that 110,000 people had been forced out of their homes because of the flooding, which was caused by several days of heavy rain.

The U.N.'s World Food Programme said it was airlifting more than 100 metric tons of high-energy biscuits to meet the needs of those affected.

Amaury Gregoire, Doctors Without Borders' mission head in Malawi, said, “The floods are behaving like a slow tsunami, with the river swelling progressively downstream toward the south and Mozambique.”

The international medical relief organization said it was concerned that displaced people would be vulnerable to waterborne disease because of unsanitary conditions.

Authorities voiced fears that cholera would break out in southern areas of the country, where torrential rains have destroyed thousands of hectares of crops.

Neighboring Mozambique has also been ravaged by the wet weather. According to Mozambican news agency AIM, at least 38 people have died during heavy flooding there.