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Madagascar Prepares for Second Cyclone in Two Weeks

Deforestation, mountainous terrain add to risk

News

Cyclones

Cyclone Batsirai approaches Madagascar on Friday, Feb. 4, 2022. (Satellite Image via NOAA/RAMMB/Colorado State University)

Madagascar is bracing to face a powerful cyclone with “potentially devastating consequences” tomorrow, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The storm, Cyclone Batsirai, comes just two weeks after the island nation endured Tropical Storm Ana, which led to at least 58 deaths and 71,000 displaced people.

Batsirai, which is responsible for one death on Mauritius already, is currently tracking as a Category 4 storm, with sustained winds of 145 miles per hour. The storm is also predicted to bring 10 to 20 inches of rain, and the impact on Madagascar’s east coast will likely include dangerous storm surges, with landslides remaining a risk as well.

“We are very nervous,” the World Food Programme’s Pasqualina Di Sirio told the BBC.

Adding to the threat posed by the cyclone, Madagascar lost 24% of its forests in the last 20 years, according to Global Forest Watch. An analysis by Yale Climate Connections reported that this loss, combined with the island’s mountainous terrain, will lead to more powerful flood runoff and flood heights.

The storms come as Madagascar is also contending with Covid-19, as only 1.8% of its population is fully vaccinated. Other seasonal health challenges remain, including endemic plague.

As with all post-storm situations, Direct Relief is focused on responding to medical requests related to alleviating interruptions to supply chains, power, and access to medicines, especially for chronic conditions. Post-storm deaths often exceed deaths during the event itself, including for Hurricane Katrina, according to autopsy reports from Louisiana. Such fatalities often come due to a combination of factors, including waterborne illness, food insecurity, reduced medical stockpiles, and power outages.

Direct Relief staff is in touch with health care providers on the ground, including officials at the Ministry of Public Health, who are reviewing an offer of support. Since 2010, Direct Relief has sent $6.7 million worth of requested medicines and medical supplies to Madagascar.

Additional reporting was contributed by Chris Alleway.

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