Winds lash Madagascar …as deadly cyclone hits

 At least four people have died after a tropical cyclone battered Madagascar’s east coast, with heavy rain and powerful winds tearing roofs off houses and triggering a storm surge.

Cyclone Freddy made landfall on Tuesday, weeks after another tropical storm killed 33 and left thousands without shelter.

Schools have been shut and traffic has been suspended in 10 regions. Earlier, Freddy caused some damage in Mauritius, flood­ing beachside hotels.

The head of Madagascar’s Na­tional Office of Risk and Disaster Management told the BBC that “negligence” was to blame for the deaths.

“Despite the awareness that we spread. People still dare to ignore the instructions and the warnings,” said Elack Olivier An­drikaja, adding that three of the deaths happened when a home collapsed.

The Indian Ocean island nation of Madagascar is particularly vulnerable to cyclones. It is hit by an average of 1.5 cyclones every year, the highest rate in Africa, according to the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The cyclone slightly weakened once it made landfall on Mada­gascar, with wind gusts exceeding 130km/h (81mph). The country’s meteorological service warned that torrential rains would contin­ue along its path.

“The sea remains very rough… and a significant risk of coastal flooding will continue overnight,” it said.

A 27-year-old man drowned near the port of Mahanoro before the storm made landfall, officials said.

Officials also said 7,000 people had been pre-emptively evacuated from the coastal region directly in Freddy’s path, and warnings waves could reach over 8m (26ft) were issued by the International Federation of Red Cross.

Some people used sandbags to weigh down their roofs as a precaution, but that didn’t stop the storm from ripping roofs off houses.

“All the doors and windows started shaking,” said Tahina, a resident of Mananjary, a coastal town of around 25,000 people 30km from where the cyclone first made landfall.

She had fled her home with her parents and three children to shelter in her husband’s office.

“Next to us, at least five houses have lost their roofs,” Tahina told AFP news agency. —AFP

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