Cyclone Hudah flattens town on Madagascar, heads toward northern Mozambique

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The Independent Online

Cyclone Hudah leveled almost all buildings in the northeastern city of Antalaha before leaving Madagascar this morning on a course for flood-weary Mozambique.

Cyclone Hudah leveled almost all buildings in the northeastern city of Antalaha before leaving Madagascar this morning on a course for flood-weary Mozambique.

Two people were reported dead in Antalaha, where thousands of residents were left without power ands phone service after lines were knocked out, the national disaster committee said.

Matthew Hatchwell, a spokesman for the Wildlife Conservation Society, said the society's staff in Antalaha said the town was devastated.

"Most buildings not made of concrete were totally destroyed and many others seriously damaged," he said. "An entire neighborhood of wooden houses was flattened."

Aid officials said they believed Antalaha was among the areas worst hit by the storm.

The powerful cyclone exited the northwest coast of Madagascar around 9 a.m. Monday after making landfall near the northeastern town of Antalaha 12 hours earlier, said Meteo, the local weather service.

The storm lost steam as it crossed northern Madagascar, but Meteo forecasters warned it would strengthen when it passed over the Mozambique Channel.

"There will be a re-intensification of the system because it will be over the sea," said Sahondra Ravellarisoa of Meteo.

The storm was moving west-southwest over the channel at midday Monday, meaning it was headed toward Mozambique, which suffered even more than Madagascar from the one-two punch of tropical storms hitting the region in the past two months.

The South African Weather Bureau said the cyclone could make landfall Wednesday morning in the Quilemane area in northern Mozambique.

Intense rainfall was likely in Mozambique's southern sector, possibly as far south as Vilanculos, the weather bureau said. The previous storms caused worst damage in the central and southern parts of Mozambique.

Aid workers said it was too early to assess how many people suffered from the storm's effects, but the disaster committee said some 1.3 million people live in the areas where the storm passed.

Several surveillance flights were scheduled for Tuesday, the committee said.

Though the fast-moving storm did not bring extremely heavy rains, it was soaking a region that has not yet dried out from Cyclone Eline, which hit in mid-February, and Tropical Storm Gloria, which hit two weeks later.

Besides Antalaha, the towns of Andapa and Maroantsetra also reported severe damage, including leveled schools, public offices and homes, and loss of electricity and phone service. Andapa was hit badly by flooding and mudslides caused by Tropical Storm Gloria.

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