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MADAGASCAR: Violence of Cyclone Ivan overwhelms careful preparations

Image: Aftermath of Cyclone Ivan in Madagascar
JOHANNESBURG, 20 February 2008 (IRIN)
As initial assessments shed light on the extensive damage caused by Cyclone Ivan earlier this week, Madagascar is bracing itself for another onslaught as Cyclone Hondo picks up and heads for the island’s east coast. Ivan slammed into Madagascar's northeastern coast on Sunday, 18 February, with winds of up to 210km per hour, leaving a trail of destruction on its way across the island until it slowly diminished in strength and dissipated in the Mozambique Channel on Tuesday. Ivan brought “two levels of disasters: destruction caused by the intense wind first, and now the flooding.” And we can expect more - we are in the middle of cyclone season you know - Hondo is now threatening our coast.” Hondo developed into a full-blown category four tropical cyclone in the centre of the Indian Ocean at the beginning of February, but quickly lost intensity and never threatened to make landfall. But Hondo is making a comeback. “Hondo is now 1,600km from our east coast. It does not affect the weather yet, but we must be alert to its evolution.” On Sainte Marie, a 60km long island off Madagascar’s northeast coast, which bore the brunt of cyclone Ivan, “75 percent of the houses have been destroyed." Over 8,000 were left without shelter and two people died. An additional nine victims are thought to be buried under the rubble of a collapsed hotel. “The cyclone damaged road infrastructure and houses and blew down trees. In many parts of the country, especially the northeast, the electricity is cut off and rivers are reported to have begun flooding." Concerns have also been raised over food security after large areas of rice fields were flooded in the Ambatondrazaka region, where most of Madagascar’s rice, the staple food, is grown. The cyclone season was overlapping with the lean season between harvests, and the precarious food security situation was worrying. “After the passage of the cyclones, many people lose their harvest. This situation would likely cause a severe deterioration of the situation in the coming months.”
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