Cyclone Batsirai swept out of Madagascar on Monday, leaving behind 20 people dead, 55,000 others homeless. The storm also devastated the drought-hit island’s agricultural heartland, leading the UN to warn of a worsening humanitarian crisis.
Madagascar was already reeling from a tropical storm that killed 55 people weeks earlier, and the latest extreme weather event came as South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said the continent is “bearing both the brunt and the cost” of global warming.
UNICEF warned that many of the victims were likely to be children, which make up more than 50 percent of the country’s population.
The cyclone first hit a sparsely populated agricultural area in the country’s east on Saturday, before later weakening. The eastern city of Mananjary was “completely destroyed,” a resident named Faby said.
Batsirai then moved west inland, causing flooding that ravaged rice fields in the country’s central “breadbasket,” UNICEF said.
“The impact of the cyclone does not end today, it will last for several months, particularly the impact on agriculture,” Manhes said.
“The roofs of several schools and health centers were blown off” in the affected areas, UNICEF said.
Batsirai spared the capital Antananarivo and the island’s main port Tamatave, which led to a lower death toll than had been initially feared by the authorities and aid organizations, who had warned that nearly 600,000 people could be affected and 140,000 displaced.
Some 77 percent of Madagascar’s population live below the poverty line and the latest blow comes during a severe drought in the south which has plunged more than a million people into acute malnutrition, some facing famine.
The cyclone damaged the main road linking the island’s north and south, “which will make it difficult to provide access and reinforcements to villages, including in drought-hit areas,” Manhes said.
“Madagascar is in a constant humanitarian crisis,” he added.
Some 10,000 people on La Reunion were left without electricity on Sunday, three days after Batsirai passed through the island, injuring 12 people on its path.
Tropical Storm Ana affected at least 131,000 people across Madagascar in late January, with most of the 55 deaths coming in Antananarivo. Ana also hit Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, causing dozens of deaths.
South Africa’s President Ramaphosa told a summit of African leaders on Sunday that the continent was “experiencing the worst impacts of phenomena associated with global warming such as droughts, floods and cyclones”.
“Despite not being responsible for causing climate change, it is Africans who are bearing both the brunt and the cost,” he said.