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Madagascar braces for 4th cyclone as UN outlines plans to assist

The island nation of Madagascar is shoring up for its fourth tropical cyclone in a month, UN aid agencies warned on Tuesday, February 22, 2022, as they outlined plans to help the authorities assist the most vulnerable.

Jens Laerke
Jens Laerke, spokesperson for UN humanitarian coordination office, OCHA

While tropical cyclone Emnati was due to make landfall in the south of the East African State on Tuesday – on Madagascar’s east coast – central and southern areas are also likely to be affected.

“We are in a race against time to protect those who dealt with the fury of the first three extreme weather events from the impact of Emnati,” Jens Laerke, spokesperson for UN humanitarian coordination office, OCHA, said.

“Response teams have been deployed earlier to support the Government-led response.”

To help boost the response, UN humanitarians have appealed for $26 million in funding since cyclone Batsirai made landfall earlier this month.

The World Food Programme (WFP) acknowledged that the new storm would increase the needs of those already reeling from four weeks of weather chaos and said that it was ready to support those affected.

More than 1.6 million people need humanitarian assistance, including 334,000 in the Grand Sud who are facing emergency levels of food insecurity – following recurring drought and the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to boosting staff numbers on the ground, the UN agency is coordinating with the Government to distribute hot meals in affected areas and 148 tonnes of stored food while awaiting additional supplies, when it is safe to make deliveries.

Although it is the typhoon season in the Indian Ocean, it is rare to see four storms hitting the same country in the space of four weeks, said Clare Nullis from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

“We had been concerned since yesterday (Monday) that it might strengthen to a strong category three or even four, but fortunately, that didn’t happen.

“But even so, the winds are going to be very high, there have been high winds, destructive gusts of between 150 to 200 kilometres per hour, and it’s a big storm, so these winds are going to cover a large radius.”

Heavy rains are also expected along the path of the storm – up to 250 millimetres in the space of 24 hours on the flat and from 400 to 500mm at higher altitudes.

Noting that the rains will cause “bad flooding and landslides,” Nullis explained, “the land is waterlogged, and it can’t absorb any more water.”

There may also be significant flooding in coastal areas, the WMO official, because of the combination of a “cyclonic swell” associated with waves close to 10 metres high offshore and a sea level rise of about one metre.

In late January, Madagascar was hit by tropical storm, Ana, and on February 5, tropical cyclone, Batsirai, slammed into central areas, impacting 270,000 people.

More than 21,000 people are still displaced and a further 5,000 people were affected by tropical storm Dumako, which struck on 15 February, according to the UN humanitarian coordination body, OCHA.

Around 21,000 people are still displaced and 20,500 homes have been destroyed, flooded or damaged by Batsirai.

By Cecilia Ologunagba

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