Winds batter Madagascar’s coast as Cyclone Freddy makes landfall


Satellite images show tropical cyclone Freddy approaching Madagascar

At least one person has died after a tropical cyclone hit Madagascar’s east coast, bringing heavy rain and strong winds that tore roofs off houses and triggered a storm surge.

Cyclone Freddy made landfall on Tuesday, weeks after another tropical storm killed 33 and left thousands without shelter.

Schools are closed and traffic is at a standstill.

Earlier, Freddy caused some damage in Mauritius, flooding beach hotels.

The island nation in the Indian Ocean is particularly vulnerable to cyclones. It is hit by an average of 1.5 cyclones each year, the highest frequency in Africa, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The cyclone weakened slightly as it made landfall in Madagascar, which is off the southeast coast of Africa, with winds gusting over 130 km/h (81 mph). The country’s meteorological service warned that torrential rain would continue along the road.

“The sea remains very rough… and a significant risk of coastal flooding will continue overnight,” it said.

A 27-year-old man drowned near the port of Mahanoro before the storm made landfall, officials said.

Officials also said 7,000 people had been evacuated in advance from the coastal region in Freddy’s path, and warning waves could reach more than 8 meters (26 feet) were issued by the International Federation of the Red Cross.

Some used sandbags to weigh down the roof as a precaution.

“All the doors and windows started shaking,” said Tahina, a resident of Mananjary, a coastal town of about 25,000 people 30km from where the cyclone first made landfall.

She had fled her home with her parents and three children to shelter in her husband’s office.

– Next to us, at least five houses have lost their roofs, says Tahina to the AFP news agency.

Pascal Salle sobbed as he surveyed the damage caused by Freddy – who had ripped a window from his home and turned his garden into a “sandfield”.

“It’s a repeat performance. I can’t take this every year, it’s not possible. Batsirai and Emnati in 2022, Freddy in 2023… Who’s to say that in 15 days another one won’t fall on us?” he said.

Last month, powerful storm Cheneso smashed into northeastern Madagascar, bringing strong winds and unleashing torrential rains that caused widespread flooding, killing at least 33 people and forcing tens of thousands from their homes.

Mananjary is still recovering from the devastation caused by last year’s Cyclone Batsirai, which killed more than 130 people across Madagascar.

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