Tropical Cyclone Ava moves towards Madagascar

Torrential rain starts in the north of the island as the storm is about to strengthen.

Madagascar Satellite
Tropical cyclone strengthens off the east coast of Madagascar [Al Jazeera]

Heavy rain has started to pound Madagascar as Tropical Cyclone Ava moves towards the island. 

In the far north, Antisiranana reported 43mm of rain in 24 hours up to 06:00 GMT on Wednesday, while the eastern island of Nosy Boraha received 59mm.

On the neighbouring island nation of La Reunion, the capital Saint-Denis was drenched by 50mm of rain.

Despite the downpours, the centre of the storm remained approximately 250km off the east coast of Madagascar.

It is moving west very slowly at 13 kilometres an hour. As it does so, it is attempting to strengthen.

Over the past few hours, Cyclone Ava has become more organised and the convection has intensified.

The conditions remain favourable for development, with sea surface temperatures of 28-29C, and the winds throughout the atmosphere being of a similar strength.

While the storm is predicted to strengthen, its track is more difficult to determine.

Tropical cyclones are steered by winds in the upper atmosphere, but those winds are currently quite weak and rapidly evolving, so they could change with little notice.

The current forecast moves the cyclone slowly south down the east of Madagascar, strengthening as it does so.

This could bring a few days of heavy rain to the northeast of the island, which could trigger flooding or landslides.

Madagascar is regularly hit by cyclones between November and April.

In March 2017, Tropical Cyclone Enawo slammed into the northeast of the country.

Enawo was the strongest cyclone to hit Madagascar in 13 years, with winds of 230kph, the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane.

It killed at least 80 people, and almost a quarter of a million lost their homes.

Ava, the current cyclone, is far smaller and weaker in comparison, but a prolonged onslaught of torrential rain could still be very destructive to the highly vulnerable island.