Tropical Cyclone Freddy, slightly weakened but carried by extreme winds, is advancing rapidly towards Madagascar, where it is expected to hit the east coast Tuesday evening, according to forecasts.
< p> Freddy, who was at midday some 500 km from the large island in the Indian Ocean, is expected there with “devastating winds” and “a very dangerous sea state”, warned Météo-France , which fears destruction within a radius of 100 km.
More than 2.3 million Malagasy people, out of a total of around 28 million, could be affected by this new cyclone, according to the World Food Program (MAP).
The cyclone should land north of Mananjary (east), a coastal town of 25,000 inhabitants already largely destroyed last year by Cyclone Batsirai, responsible for the death of more than 130 inhabitants, in this country which is among the poorest in the planet.
In Mananjary, rain and wind, already present, announce the imminent arrival of the storm. Sandbags have been placed on most houses to weight the roofs and all-terrain vehicles are roaming the streets, equipped with loudspeakers recalling the safety instructions, according to residents reached by telephone.
Mothers, their babies in hand, have started to go to the schools requisitioned to serve as emergency shelters.
In the capital Antananarivo, more than 500 km from the expected impact zone, the airport remained open on Tuesday morning but flights to the east coast were canceled, AFP found.
8-meter waves< /p>
Many storms or cyclones cross the southwest Indian Ocean each year between November and April.
Freddy passed in the night from Monday to Tuesday off Reunion, which “escaped the the most degraded conditions associated with the eye” of the cyclone, which remained 190 km from the north of the French island, according to meteorologists.
The prefecture lifted the hurricane alert from 4 a.m. GMT and the airport, closed since Monday afternoon, was to reopen in the morning.
The island was hit by strong winds and the sea there became dangerous with waves reaching eight meters high, but “no deaths or injuries are to be deplored”, according to the prefecture which has yet to draw up the material balance sheet.
Bad weather caused power cuts that still affected 9,000 homes on Tuesday morning and led to the shutdown of pumping stations, depriving 500 homes of drinking water.
The cyclone had previously swept through Mauritius on Monday, remaining there also 120 km north of the coast but still causing gusts of wind on the archipelago where the airport and shops, banks and gas stations were closed.
Madagascar was already hit by a powerful tropical storm last month. Heavy rains had caused flooding and killed at least 33 people.
After crossing Madagascar, Freddy is expected to exit through the Mozambique Channel and hit Mozambique on Friday as a severe tropical storm with winds reaching 120 km/h and heavy rain, according to forecast.