No fewer than four people have been confirmed dead after a powerful cyclone tracked across Madagascar on Wednesday as it headed towards Mozambique, disaster management authorities disclosed.
A 27-year-old man drowned in rising sea waters just before Cyclone Freddy made landfall on the Indian Ocean island yesterday evening, packing winds of around 130 kilometres (80 miles) per hour).
The authorities had on Wednesday morning said the toll had risen to four.
Around 16,600 people were affected and more than 6,750 homes were damaged, the National Risk Management Office (BNGRC) said, also giving a provisional assessment.
France’s weather service Meteo-France said Freddy weakened as it began its path across the island, and now had an average wind speed of 55 kph, gusting to 75 kph.
Risk management senior official Faly Aritiana Fabien described Freddy as ‘one of the strongest cyclones’ in recent times to hit the island, which is typically lashed several times during the annual November-April storm season.
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The storm brought less rain than feared but still ripped roofs off buildings and flattened rice fields and fruit trees.
It made landfall north of Mananjary, a coastal town of 25,000 people that remains devastated by last year’s Cyclone Batsirai, which killed more than 130 people across Madagascar.
‘It’s a dry cyclone compared to Batsirai, so it brought less rains, but the winds were stronger, this is why infrastructure was badly affected,’ Fabien told reporters.
‘The recorded damage is almost only related to the wind.’
As Freddy closed in after brushing Mauritius and the French island of La Reunion to the north without causing major damage, the authorities put in place an array of measures.
Several regions on Tuesday suspended school classes for the rest of the week and at least 8,000 people were evacuated as a precaution in Mananjary.
By daybreak, residents there were out on the streets to assess the damage.
Despite thousands of sandbags used to reinforce roofs, metal sheets, and electric cables were strewn on the ground by the force of the wind.
Pascal Salle sobbed as he assessed the damage after hardly recovering from last year’s Cyclone Batsirai.
Africa Today News, New York reports that Freddy is the first cyclone and the second tropical weather system to hit during Madagascar’s current season, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.
The storm began to brew in the first week of February off the northwest of Australia and south of Indonesia and is now in its third week trekking across the Indian Ocean.