Cyclone Batsirai swept out of Madagascar yesterday after killing 20 people, displacing 55,000 and devastating the drought-hit island’s agricultural heartland, leading the UN to warn of a worsening humanitarian crisis.
Madagascar was already reeling from a tropical storm which killed 55 people late last month, and the latest extreme weather event came as South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said the continent is “bearing both the brunt and the cost” of global warming.
After drenching the fellow Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, Batsirai made landfall in Madagascar’s east on Saturday evening bringing heavy rain and winds of 165 kilometres per hour.
Jean Benoit Manhes, a representative of UN children’s agency Unicef in the country, said yesterdaythat “Batsirai left Madagascar this morning at 7am (0400 GMT) heading out into the Mozambique Channel.”
Madagascar’s disaster management agency said that Batsirai had left 20 people dead and forced 55,000 from their homes.
Unicef warned that many of the victims were likely to be children, which make up more than 50% of the country’s population. The cyclone first hit a sparsely populated agricultural area in the country’s east on Saturday, before later weakening. The eastern city of Mananjary was “completely destroyed,” a resident named Faby said on Sunday.
In the southern central city of Fianarantsoa, footage showed a building had collapsed into rubble. As the cyclone moved west inland it caused flooding that ravaged rice fields in the country’s central “breadbasket,” Unicef said.
“The impact of the cyclone does not end today, it will last for several months, particularly the impact on agriculture,” Manhes said.
“The roofs of several schools and health centres were blown off” in the affected areas, Unicef said.
Batsirai spared the capital Antanarivo and the island’s main port Tamatave, which led to a lower death toll than had been initially feared by the authorities and aid organisations, who had warned that nearly 600,000 people could be affected and 140,000 displaced.
Some 77 % of Madagascar’s 28mn people live below the poverty line and the latest blow comes during a severe drought in the south which has plunged more than a million people into acute malnutrition, some facing famine.
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