ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar (AP) — Cyclone Emnati slammed into Madagascar’s southeast coast in the early hours of Wednesday, ripping roofs off homes and raising fears of flooding and food shortages in a region still recovering from the destruction inflicted by another tropical storm just weeks since.
More than 30,000 people were moved to safe accommodation before Emnati’s arrival and Madagascar’s National Office for Risk and Disaster Management estimates that more than 250,000 people could be affected by the latest cyclone.
There were no immediate reports of Emnati dead or injured, but local authorities reported extensive damage to homes and other buildings in at least one southeastern town.
Madagascar, an island off the east coast of Africa renowned for its wildlife and unspoiled natural treasures, has been hit by four major tropical storms in the past month, already killing nearly 200 people and worsening health problems. food insecurity. A drought in the south of the country left around 400,000 people at risk of starvation last year, according to the United Nations World Food Programme.
A series of aid agencies have warned that Emnati will deal a double blow to the eastern and southeastern regions which were hit by Cyclone Batsirai earlier this month. Batsirai ultimately left over 120 dead and 143,000 displaced. More than 20,000 homes were destroyed or damaged by Batsirai, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said, and more than 21,000 people remain displaced.
The UN humanitarian office said before Emnati’s arrival that it was in “a race against time” to protect people again.
Emnati made landfall around midnight local time in Manakara Atsimo district in the southeast, with average sustained winds of 135 km/h (84 mph) and gusts as strong as 190 km/h (118 mph), a indicated the Department of Meteorology of Madagascar. Six regions in the southeast are on red alert, most already hard hit by Batsirai.
“We can’t go out so it’s hard to see what happened but from what I can see from the gendarmerie barracks, there is a lot of damage. Many houses no longer have roofs,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Harinaivo Randriamihajamanana, commander of the gendarmerie group in the Fitovinany region and based in the town of Manakara. “We haven’t received any calls because the telephone communication has been very disrupted. We have had no electricity or water since yesterday (Tuesday) morning.
The Emnati system had weakened as it crossed the Indian Ocean towards Madagascar, the meteorology department said, but warned flooding was still likely.
Manakara resident Gabriel Filiastre said his family joined others to take shelter in the main lobby of a hotel where he worked as Emnati hit.
“My house is completely flooded,” Filiastre said. “We couldn’t sleep inside. It is a wooden house. I saw many houses around our house that are destroyed. For us, this cyclone did more damage than the previous one.
“Even in the hotel, there is a lot of damage. One of the walls collapsed… the roof tiles were blown off and part of the bedroom ceilings collapsed. We need help.”
The United Nations World Food Program and other aid organizations have warned of the risk of critical food shortages due to the destruction of crops and the disruption of transport links. Forecasters also predicted eight to 12 more cyclones in the Madagascar region before the cyclone season normally ends in May.
Emnati is expected to cross the southeastern part of Madagascar and head back out to sea, according to the meteorological service, meaning it is expected to miss mainland Africa, where previous cyclones have also caused death and destruction.
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