At least 10 people have been killed and nearly 48,000 forced from their homes after Cyclone Batsirai struck Madagascar overnight, according to the island country’s office of disaster and risk management.
The agency reported the deaths in a bulletin late on Sunday while state radio said some died when their house collapsed in the town of Ambalavao, about 460km (286 miles) south of the capital Antananarivo.
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It was the second major storm to hit the poor Indian Ocean island nation in two weeks.
The cyclone made landfall in Mananjary, with winds of 165km/h (103 mph), uprooting trees, destroying buildings and forcing residents to weigh down flimsy corrugated iron roofs along its path.
“Mananjary is completely destroyed, no matter where you go everything is destroyed,” one resident named Faby told the AFP news agency.
Willy Raharijaona, technical adviser to the vice president of Madagascar’s Senate, said some parts of the southeast had been cut off from the surrounding areas by flooding.
“It’s as if we had just been bombed. The city of Nosy Varika is almost 95 percent destroyed,” he told the Reuters news agency. “The solid houses saw their roofs torn off by the wind. The wooden huts have for the most part been destroyed.”
The Meteo-France weather service had earlier predicted Batsirai would pose a “very serious threat” to Madagascar, after passing Mauritius and drenching the French island of La Reunion with torrential rain.
Some 10,000 people on La Reunion were still without electricity on Sunday, three days after the tropical cyclone passed through the island, injuring 12 people on its path.
Tropical Storm Ana had affected at least 131,000 people across Madagascar in late January, with nearly 60 people killed, mostly in the capital Antananarivo.
Ana had also hit Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, causing dozens of deaths.
Meteo Madagascar, the national meteorological office, said that Batsirai had weakened as it crossed the country and that the average wind speed had halved.
At a cemetery in the eastern town of Mahanoro, overlooking the sea, Marie Viviane Rasoanandrasana sat on the ground watching over the bodies of her husband, father-in-law and daughter.
The waves of the rising sea eroded the sandy hill which was part of a graveyard. Several graves were ripped open, exposing their bodies and some others.
“A few days ago the sea was far away, but this morning I was told the waves had washed away part of the cemetery,” said the 54-year-old widow.
“Daily life is already very hard,” she said, adding the family would be forced to rebury the remains in a temporary grave until they raised enough money for a “proper burial”.