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Africa
Cyclone set to hit Madagascar
The full force of Bingiza is expected to strike near the town of Mananara Avaratra in the northeast.
Last Modified: 13 Feb 2011 11:35 GMT
Tropical Cyclone Bingiza east of northern Madagascar early on February 10 [Joint Typhoon Warning Center]

Madagascar is being lashed by heavy rains, and things are promising to get worse over the next few days.

Tropical Cyclone Bingiza is creeping ever closer. For the last few days it has been swirling a few hundred kilometers off-shore, with just the outer fringes of the storm thrown westwards towards the island.

These outer bands have already brought a lot of rain, but the centre of the storm where the worst of the weather is, has not reached Madagascar yet.

Currently the eye of the storm has sustained winds of nearly 160kph, and gust of 195kph. This makes it the equivalent of a category 2 hurricane, but the storm is still expected to strengthen as it creeps slowly westwards.

The full force of Bingiza is expected to strike on Monday, near the town of Mananara Avaratra in the northeast. The town is home to over 30,000 people, with the majority relying on agriculature for their livelihood. A storm of this size will unleash damaging winds and flooding rains capable of tearing through the more rudimentary style of housing, as well as fields of crops.

As the cyclone moves over land, it will weaken rapidly. The winds will ease, but it will continue to give heavy rains for several days. The worst of the rains are forecast to stay to the north of the capital Antananarivo, but the eastern region of Analanjirofo will see 300mm rain, which is bound to cause flooding.

Madagascar is not a stranger to cyclones and on average is battered by three named storms per year, one of which being the strength of a hurricane. The storm season normally runs from November to April, but the past few years have been fairly quiet. This is the first named storm to cross the island this year and last year there was only one major storm.

Last year's storm was called Tropical Cyclone Hubert and it was far weaker than Bingiza. In fact Hubert would only be classed as a Tropical Storm in other parts of the world, as the strongest sustained winds were only 70kph.  However, the storm still devastated the southeast of the island: 35 people lost their lives in this storm and a further 85,000 were made homeless.

With Bingiza being so much stronger than Hubert, there are obviously concerns as the storm bears down. Being one of the poorest countries in the world, Madagascar finds it difficult to recover from such disasters.

The writer is Al Jazeera's senior meteorologist.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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