Madagascar is bracing for a new cyclone to hit the country just weeks after Storm Ana struck the country, making 151,000 people homeless and killing at least 58.
Cyclone Batsirai is set to hit the island’s east coast on Saturday and lash the country with heavy rainfall and winds of up to 125 miles an hour.
The storm has already blown by the islands of Mauritius and Reunion, killing at least person in Mauritius and causing widespread power cuts.
Jens Laerke of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said he expected a “significant humanitarian impact”.
In January, Cyclone Ana and other heavy rains in Madagascar caused 55 deaths and made 131,000 people homeless.
About 15,000 people have not yet been able to return to their homes, according to the National Office for Risk and Disaster Management.
Batsirai may be even more destructive and could force 150,000 people to leave their homes and badly affect about 595,000 others, according to officials.
“We must be very vigilant,” Elack Andriankaja, director-general of the National Office for Risk and Disaster Management, said Thursday.
“The capital will not be spared … We have already warned residents to leave areas at risk, such as the banks of rivers and the sea, areas vulnerable to landslides and houses that will not withstand gusts of wind and the onset of heavy rains.”
In Antananarivo, the capital, many low-lying neighbourhoods that were flooded in January are expecting renewed rainfall from the approaching cyclone.
“We must now prepare to welcome many more disaster victims than before,” Ranto Rakotonjanahary, director-general of the Authority for the Protection against Floods in the Antananarivo Plain, said.
The east coast of Madagascar, the world’s fourth-largest island, is already experiencing cloudy, windy weather as the cyclone approaches, according to the commander of the gendarmerie group of Vatomandry, Capt. Achille Rakotomavo.
“We are all preparing for the cyclone, in particular with the reinforcement of the roofs. We are using the radio to warn people who live near the sea. These people need to leave now,” he said.
Madagascar has suspended school classes from Friday and people are already putting sandbags on the roofs of their homes.
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.
Additional reporting by AP and Reuters