Residents of Antananarivo took refuge in emergency shelters on Saturday as Madagascar braced itself for tropical cyclone Batsirai. There are fears the storm could deliver another ravaging blow to the island nation, still reeling from last month’s cyclone Ana that left at least 58 people dead.
Authorities in the Indian Ocean Island nation said the storm system was about 163 kilometres off the east coast of Madagascar around Saturday afternoon and that landfall was anticipated around 1800 local time.
The storm, set to be more powerful than Ana with heavy rainfall and winds up to 200 km (124 miles) an hour, is projected to drive up to 150 000 people from their homes in addition to some 130 000 people displaced by the last cyclone.
Jens Laerke of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said he expected a “significant humanitarian impact” and said that teams were stocking up on supplies and readying aircraft to assess future damage.
During the last storm, dozens were killed by landslides and buildings collapsed or were washed away.
Batsirai is expected to bring more heavy rainfall with up to 30 centimetres forecast on Saturday, and more in mountain areas, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said.
Tantely Randriamparantsoa, a 40-year-old resident of Antananarivo, told Reuters that flooding was a huge concern in low-lying neighbourhoods with poor drainage, like his own.
“The population needs help from the government,” he added.
The region has been repeatedly struck by severe storms and cyclones in recent years, destroying homes, infrastructure, and crops and displacing large numbers of people.
Experts say storms are becoming stronger and more frequent as waters warm due to climate change, with rising sea levels also making low-lying coastal areas vulnerable.