Cyclone in Madagascar kills dozens, displaces tens of thousands

More than two dozen Madagascans have died and tens of thousands have been left homeless since a severe tropical cyclone made landfall last week and swirled for days off the island’s western coast, official records show.

Cyclone Cheneso smashed into northeastern Madagascar 10 days ago, bringing strong winds and triggering downpours that have caused extensive flooding.

Over the week it tracked southeastwards, extending damage to houses, and schools and cutting off several national roads.

Twenty-five people are now known to have died and 21 others are still missing, according to an update from Madagascar’s Office for Risk and Disaster Management on Sunday.

At least 83,181 people have been affected, with nearly 38,000 displaced from their homes.

More than 23,600 houses were flooded and at least 500 others completely destroyed, the disaster management office said in an earlier update on Friday night.

Cheneso – which temporarily intensified to a tropical cyclone in recent days with winds of 118-166km per hour (73-103 miles per hour) – “has started to lose its purely tropical characteristic”, according to the Southwest Indian Ocean Regional Specialized Meteorological Centre based on the French overseas island of La Reunion.

Cheneso made landfall on January 19, packing winds of up to 110kmph (68.3mph).

It is the first tropical storm of the current cyclone season in Southern Africa – which typically runs from November to April – to hit the cyclone-prone large Indian Ocean island.

In recent years, Madagascar and Mozambique have been repeatedly hit by severe storms and cyclones that have destroyed homes, infrastructure and crops and displaced large numbers of people.In January and February last year, four major storms hit Madagascar, killing at least 138 people, destroying 124,000 homes and displacing about 130,000 people.

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