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Cyclone Batsirai kills six, displaces tens of thousands in Madagascar


Cyclone Batsirai killed at least six people and displaced nearly 48,000 when it struck Madagascar overnight, the national disaster management agency said on Sunday.

Cyclone Batsirai weakened overnight but not before wreaking havoc in the poor Indian Ocean island nation which is still reeling from a deadly tropical storm earlier this year.

The rain will cause flooding across parts of the country, Madagascar’s meteorological office said on Sunday.

His colleague responsible for risk management in the same agency, Paolo Emilio Raholinarivo, listed the numbers of dead and their location in a text message to AFP, but gave no further details.

The cyclone’s average wind speed had almost halved to 80 kilometres per hour (50 miles per hour), while the strongest gusts had fallen back to 110 km/h from the 235 km/h recorded when it made landfall, Meteo Madagascar said.

At a cemetery in the eastern town of Mahanoro, overlooking the sea, Marie Viviane Rasoanandrasana, sat on the ground watching over the bodies of her husband, her father-in-law and her daughter.

“A few days ago the sea was far away, but this morning I was told the waves had washed away part of the cemetery,” the widow, 54, said. 

“Daily life is already very hard,” she said, adding the family would be forced to rebury the remains in a temporary grave until they raise enough money for a “proper burial”.

– ‘City almost 95% destroyed’ –

“Mananjary is completely destroyed, no matter where you go everything is destroyed,” said one resident named Faby. Another man, Fana, was certain “almost 95 percent of the city has been destroyed. We implore the state to come and help us as soon as possible”.

The Meteo-France weather service had earlier predicted Batsirai would present “a very serious threat” to Madagascar, after passing Mauritius and drenching the French island of La Reunion with torrential rain.

Ana also hit Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, causing dozens of deaths.

The storm poses a risk to at least 4.4 million people in total, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said.

In 2018, the country suffered a double whammy with Cyclone Ava killing 51 people in January and tropical storm Eliakim leaving 20 people dead two months later.

Global warming has increased the risk of flooding and tropical storms, as the atmosphere retains more water and rainfall patterns are disrupted. 

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa told a summit of African leaders meeting in Addis Ababa on Sunday that the continent was “experiencing the worst impacts of phenomena associated with global warming such as droughts, floods and cyclones”. 

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