ANTANANARIVO: Cyclone Batsirai's torrential winds and rain are hammering Madagascar, after landing on the island's east coast late Saturday.
An estimated 45,000 people have been displaced by the tropical storm, the National Office for Risk and Disaster Management said on Sunday.
After gaining strength in the Indian Ocean with gale-force winds reaching peaks of 145 miles per hour, the cyclone made landfall near Mananjary, according to the island’s meteorology department.
Now that Batsirai, which means help in the Shona language, is on land its winds have slowed to about 80 miles per hour.
Residents of Mananjary the nearby towns of Manakara and Nosy Varika report that the cyclone has caused widespread damage by blowing the roofs off homes, knocking down trees and utility poles, making roads impassable and flooding many areas.
Much of Madagascar is already waterlogged from tropical storm Ana and heavy rains in January and the new cyclone is adding to the damage.
Batsirai is classified as a dangerous storm and is expected to inflict “significant and widespread damage, particularly flooding in the east, the southeast and the central highlands,” said the meteorology department in a statement.
Further inland, Antananarivo, the capital, experienced rains ahead of the cyclone and residents put sandbags on their roofs to protect against the winds.
Anticipating widespread destruction, most land and sea transport has been suspended on Madagascar, the world’s fourth-largest island.
“Almost all regions of the island are at risk,” the National Office for Risk and Disaster Management said, warning that the cyclone threatens nearly 600,000 of the island’s 28 million people.