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Assessing the punch packed by cyclone Ivan

Cyclone Ivan tears across Madagascar.
(UNICEF Madagascar)

The death toll following tropical cyclone Ivan has climbed to 28, according to the latest figures released by Madagascar's disaster management agency. Assessments are still underway but as new information trickles in authorities fear the number may climb even higher.

"Over the past few days the numbers have increased substantially," Dia Styvanley Soa, spokeswoman for the National Office for Natural Disasters Preparedness (BNGRC), told IRIN.

Assessments had focussed mainly on the northeastern part of the country but were slowly moving down the island, following the storm's path. "BNGRC, with its partners, plan to organise assessment missions to those areas this coming week," Styvanley Soa said.

Ivan made landfall on Madagascar's northeastern coast on Sunday, 18 February, with winds of up to 210km per hour, leaving a trail of destruction as it crossed the island until it diminished in strength and dissipated in the Mozambique Channel on Tuesday.

The latest BNGRC figures estimate that 300,000 people on the east coast have been affected, of which 30,000 require immediate assistance, and that up to 18,000 have been displaced near the capital, Antananarivo, where flood waters are still rising. "Seventeen people have been injured and 14 are still missing," Styvanley Soa added.

According to the latest Southern Africa Floods situation report, released on 22 February by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), "The cyclone progressed eastwards towards Lake Alaotra, an agricultural area yielding almost 30 percent of the rice production of the island." Up to 18,000ha of rice fields have been flooded.

"The government, BNGRC and partners are organising the response," Styvanley Soa said. "The president of Madagascar, the prime minister, BNGRC and partners have already sent initial aid to Sainte Marie [a 60km long island off Madagascar's northeast coast, which bore the brunt of the cyclone], the capital, Toamasina [the country's second city and biggest port in the northeast] and Fenerive east [north of Toamasina]."

"In Antananarivo national authorities have started relief operations with distributions of tents and medicines," and "the Malagasy Red Cross has requested the French Red Cross ... to support a humanitarian response with relief items for the areas of Toamasina and the island of Sainte Marie," the OCHA report said.

People in the areas ravaged by Ivan had been warned to take precautions before the storm struck, but sandbags on the roofs of thatched wooden structures were no match for the strength of the storm.

"It is incredible - despite of all the work we put in a few days ago to safeguard our house, the winds carried our house away and we were unable to save our possessions," Marie Claire Ravelonanosy, who lives in a village hit by Ivan, said in a BNGRC statement.

Nine people previously presumed dead in various media reports after being trapped under the rubble of a flattened hotel were in fact alive, a BNGRC statement said.

"The cyclone was not only intense," Styvanley Soa said, "its extensive range meant it affected almost all parts of Madagascar and caused floods in many areas of the country in the same time."


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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