Malawians flee 'terror beast'

By Raphael Tenthani, thanks to Federico Dezi
BBC, Blantyre

At least three people have been killed and 16 others severely injured by a mysterious wild beast running wild in a mountainous region of Malawi. The rampaging beast in Dowa district some 100 kilometres from the capital Lilongwe has sent at least 4,000 people fleeing four villages to seek refuge at a community hall at the district headquarters. Parks and Wildlife Officer Leonard Sefu said his department believes the mysterious beast could be a rapid hyena but said it was strange for a hyena to terrorise whole villages without being cornered. He said his department was studying the pattern of the maimed people to establish what animal it could be. Dr Matius Joshua, the Dowa District Health Officer, told me on Wednesday afternoon that two old women and a three-year-old baby died when the beast crushed their skulls and ate their intestines and private parts. Disfigured All efforts to shoot and kill the animal have so far failed. A similar beast struck the area in August last year. Even though the animal was eventually shot dead by park rangers, confusion over its identity remained. Dr Joshua said the 16 victims admitted into hospital following the latest attacks sustained various appalling injuries with some of them completely maimed and disfigured. He said some of them lost both legs and hands while two have lost both ears and eyes to the beast. One woman lost her mouth and nose. Dowa District Commissioner Charles Kalemba said the district administration is currently feeding the homeless people but more resources are needed as the rural district is unable to cope with the unexpected number of displaced. In August last year a mystery beast killed five people and maimed over 20 others before game rangers and para-military police managed to gun it down. But, according to Dowa District Information Officer Auley Mwawembe, people at the time failed to distinguish what sort of animal it was. He said some thought it was a hyena but hyenas normally have shorter hind limbs.

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