The death toll from Cyclone Batsirai in Madagascar has risen to 80, according to an updated tally from authorities on Wednesday, and could get even worse as some villages in the worst-affected areas remain cut off. The National Office for Risk and Disaster Management (BNGRC), which collects information from the most affected regions, has added that 60 of the victims have been registered in the Ikongo district, in the east of the island located in the ocean. Indian. “It’s a massacre,” the deputy for this department, Brunelle Razafintsiandrofa, lamented by phone, adding that most of the victims died after the collapse of their houses.
Batsirai hit the big island on Saturday afternoon, knocking down homes and power lines in a sparsely populated, agricultural coastal area some 150 kilometers long. It then moved centrally, devastating an area known as the country’s “rice bowl” by causing rivers to overflow into rice fields, raising fears of a humanitarian crisis. “The rice fields are damaged, and the rice crops may be lost. This is the main crop of the Malagasy people and their food security will be seriously affected in the next three to six months if we do not act immediately”, warned Pasqualina DiSirio, director of the World Food Program (WFP) in the country.
The cyclone left the island on Monday morning without touching the capital, Antananarivo, or the country’s main port, Tamatave, in the northeast. Those affected include at least 91,000 people whose homes have been destroyed or damaged and close to 60,000 displaced people. Meanwhile, NGOs and various UN agencies have begun to deploy resources and equipment to help the victims of these torrential rains and extremely strong winds. Schools, health centers and at least twenty roads have been washed away, and 17 bridges have been rendered impassable, which is complicating relief operations.
On the other hand, the balance of victims is increasing very slowly, but without stopping, because the geographical isolation of certain villages and communication difficulties are hindering this task. In Mananjary, the epicenter of the disaster, winds exceeded 235 kilometers per hour, according to the Malagasy Institute of Meteorology. Overwhelmed residents continue to clear their city, now in pieces. “The house has collapsed, we don’t know where to go, we are looking for food,” laments Berthine, 22.
Many NGOs, including Action Against Hunger, Handicap International, Save the Children and Doctors of the World mobilized before the cyclone and sent relief teams and medicines. WFP, for its part, is distributing hot meals in Manakara, one of the most popular locations.
The house has collapsed, we don’t know where to go, we are looking for food
Berthine, 22 years old
Along with the aid provided by the Government, assistance is being provided to the victims of the disaster: food, basic health care and distribution of kitchen equipment, blankets and hygiene products.
The United Nations agency for children (Unicef) fears that many of the victims are minors, in a country where they represent more than half of the population of almost 28 million. This organization and its allies calculate that at least 75,000 people need humanitarian assistance. “Dozens of schools and medical centers have been damaged or destroyed, which directly affects the lives of children,” said Jean Francois Basse, the agency’s representative in the country and a member of the assessment team. “In responding to this emergency, we must address immediate needs, but also plan for the long term by building back better, including stronger buildings.”
Dozens of schools and medical centers have been damaged or destroyed, directly affecting the lives of children
Jean Francois Basse, Unicef representative in Madagascar
Madagascar is also one of the poorest states in the world, and in addition its southern half has been suffering from a perennial drought for 40 years that has plunged more than 1.3 million people into malnutrition. In addition, it suffered another extreme weather event less than a month ago. It was storm Ana, which caused at least 58 deaths, the majority in Antananarivo, and 131,000 affected throughout the island, according to data from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Ana also wreaked havoc in Mozambique (25 dead, 220 injured and 141,500 homeless) and Malawi (33 dead and 158 injured), according to the United Nations agency.
You can follow PLANETA FUTURO at Twitter, Facebook and Instagramand subscribe here to our ‘newsletter’.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.