Cyclone Batsirai weakened overnight but floods were still expected due to heavy rain after it hit eastern Madagascar with strong winds, the island’s meteorological office said Sunday Batsirai brought strong winds and rain to Madagascar on Saturday evening. Batsirai – the second major storm in two weeks – made landfall on the east coast, with gusts of 235km/h (146mph) and high waves hitting coastal areas.
Whole villages are reported to be almost completely destroyed.
The cyclone, the second storm to hit the large Indian Ocean island nation in just a few weeks.
Cyclone Batsirai has compounded the destruction, making landfall near the south-eastern city of Mananjary, 530 kilometres (310 miles) from the capital Antananarivo, at around 20:00 local time (17:00 GMT) on Saturday. Electricity had not been available in Mananjary for two days and the water supply had been disrupted, according to local media. One resident told Reuters that even schools and churches due to be used as evacuation centres had had their roofs torn off.
“It’s as if we had just been bombed. The city of Nosy Varika is almost 95% destroyed. The solid houses saw their roofs torn off by the wind. The wooden huts have, for the most part, been destroyed,” Willy Raharijaona, an advisor to the vice president of Madagascar’s Senate, told Reuters.
Environment Minister Vahinala Raharinirina said that many villages were nearly completely gone, with some being swept away by the storm.
In the east coast city of Mahanoro, the rising sea eroded a sandy hill which was part of a graveyard. Marie Viviane Rasoanandrasana, a 54-year-old widow, sat and watched as the bodies of her husband, father-in-law and daughter were exposed.
Around 48,000 people have been displaced, according to the disaster management agency, although the UN World Food Programme (WFP) estimated that as many as 150,000 people could be forced to leave their homes.
Some of the displaced were moved to evacuation centres where victims of January’s Tropical Storm Ana were also staying.
Experts fear that Cyclone Batsirai could prove to be even more destructive than Storm Ana, which also hit Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe and officials have called on the international community to offer assistance.
The WFP has prepared food stocks to distribute to those in need, while some people have already been evacuated. The UN has put rescue aircraft on standby.
The cyclone is expected to move westwards and emerge at sea in the Mozambique Channel later on Sunday but is then forecast to head south, avoiding mainland Africa.