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Sunday, 2 April, 2000, 21:20 GMT 22:20 UK
Fierce cyclone hits Madagascar

Cyclone Hudah hammered north-eastern Madagascar with rain and fierce winds on Sunday, just weeks after the Indian Ocean island was hit by two devastating tropical storms.

The eye of Hudah, which has been classified as a very intense tropical cyclone - the strongest category of cyclones - crossed near the north-eastern town of Antalaha at approximately 9pm local time.

The cyclone, which is about 248 miles across, was accompanied by average winds of 138mph and gusts as strong as 193mph.

The local weather service, Meteo, said the cyclone was heading west-northwest, but that it was not yet known if it would continue on that course.

The current trajectory would carry the storm into the Mozambique Channel. Weather forecasters predict that it will strengthen again before making landfall in Mozambique on Wednesday.

Danger alert

Given the storm's size and intensity, rain and wind are expected for most of the northern half of the country, including the capital, Antananarivo, Meteo said.

Winds were picking up in the capital by late evening, but no rain was falling.

The weather service issued a danger alert for northern Madagascar, including the northern tip of the island, the eastern coast and the capital.

National radio warned residents up and down the east coast of Madagascar to evacuate the area or move to safe shelters.

Residents in the north-eastern town of Sambava said by telephone that rain had not begun to fall but that the seas were extremely rough.

Residents of Ile Sainte Marie, an island 170 miles south of Sambava, reported high winds and heavy rain but no significant damage as of early afternoon.

Disaster assistance

Relief agency leaders met in Antananarivo on Sunday to make plans to provide disaster assistance.

World Food Program Representative Salha Haladou said aid organisations were planning to conduct survey flights over the northeast as soon as weather permitted.

Cyclone Hudah hit Madagascar in the same region where Tropical Storm Gloria passed one month ago, flooding rice fields and killing dozens of people in flash floods and mudslides.

Residents in the area have been dependent on food aid from the World Food Program for several weeks.

Two weeks before Gloria, Cyclone Eline destroyed the homes or crops of more than 40,000 people on much of the eastern coast of the Indian Ocean island.

It went on to cause major damage and loss of life in Mozambique.

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10 Mar 00 | Africa
Aid reaches Madagascar
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