Cyclone Batsirai weakened overnight but flooding was still expected due to heavy rains after it hit eastern Madagascar with strong winds, the island’s meteorological office said on Sunday.
“Batsirai has weakened,” said Meteo Madagascar, adding that the cyclone’s average wind speed had almost halved to 80 kilometers per hour (50 miles per hour), while the strongest gusts had scaled back to 110 km / h from 235 km / h. was registered when it went ashore on Saturday night.
The cyclone, the second storm to hit the large island nation in the Indian Ocean in just a few weeks, was moving west at a speed of 19 km / h, meteorological services said.
But “local or general floods are still feared after the heavy rains,” it said, adding that Batsirai would appear at sea in the Mozambique Channel later Sunday.
Batsirai landed in the Mananjary district, more than 530 kilometers (310 miles) southeast of the capital Antananarivo, around 20.00 local time (1700 GMT) on Saturday.
It reached the island as an “intense tropical cyclone”, packing winds of 165 kilometers per hour (102 miles per hour), Faly Aritiana Fabien from the country’s disaster management agency told AFP.
The National Meteorological Office has said it fears “significant and extensive damage”.
Just an hour and a half after the first hit country, almost 27,000 people had been counted as displaced from their homes, Fabien said.
He said his office has accommodation, food and medical care ready for the victims, as well as search and rescue plans that are already in place.
“Very serious threat” Meteo-France weather service had previously predicted that Batsirai would pose a “very serious threat” to Madagascar, after passing Mauritius and drowning the French island of La Reunion in torrential rain for two days.
Hours before the cyclone struck, residents sank into the poor country and are still recovering from the deadly tropical storm Ana at the end of last month.
In the eastern coastal city of Vatomandry, more than 200 people were crammed into a room in a Chinese-owned concrete building.
Families slept on rugs or mattresses.
Community leader Thierry Louison Leaby lamented the lack of clean water after the waterworks shut off supplies before the cyclone.
“People cook with dirty water,” he said, amid fears of an outbreak of diarrhea.
Outside, plastic barrels and buckets were placed in a line to catch rainwater dripping from the corrugated roofing sheets.
“The government must absolutely help us. We have not received anything,” he said.
Residents who chose to stay in their homes used sandbags and yellow jerrycans to support their roofs.
The cyclone remains “dangerous” Other residents of Vatomandry stored supplies in preparation for the storm.
“We have stored rice for a week, but also grain because with the power outages we can not keep meat or fish,” says Odette Nirina, a 65-year-old hotel owner in Vatomandry.
“I have also filled up with coal. Here we are used to cyclones,” she told AFP.
Winds of more than 50 kilometers per hour (30 miles per hour) hit Vatomandry on Saturday morning, accompanied by intermittent rain.
The disaster authority said the cyclone was expected to remain “dangerous” as it swept across the large island overnight and in the morning.
Floods are expected due to excessive rainfall in the eastern, southeastern and central parts of the country, it warned.
The UN increased its preparedness with aid organizations, put rescue aircraft on standby and stored humanitarian supplies.
At least 131,000 people were affected by Ana across Madagascar at the end of January. Nearly 60 people were killed, most in the capital Antananarivo.
The storm also hit Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, killing dozens.
The UN World Food Program pointed to estimates by national authorities that about 595,000 people could be directly affected by Batsirai, and 150,000 more could be displaced by new landslides and floods.
The storm poses a risk to at least 4.4 million people in one way or another, said the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.