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Friday, 10 March, 2000, 11:39 GMT
Eyewitness: Madagascar left reeling
Mozambique aid effort
The relief effort has concentrated on Mozambique so far
By Voahangy Rakotoarivelo in Antananarivo

It is not raining any more but the sky remains grey and clouded over.

A very light wind is continuing to blow over the roofs which from time to time shakes the trees.

Sometimes, a stray ray of sunshine pierces through but it never lasts long.

Madagascar was hit by two cyclones
Though Cyclones Eline and Gloria, which devastated Madagascar a few days ago, have now vanished, they have left behind some gloomy weather.

And in this sad atmosphere, the country is licking its wounds.

When Cyclone Eline - the first violent hurricane of the year - hit Madagascar on the night of Thursday 17 February, it surprised most people in their sleep.

No warnings

The meteorological services failed to give any specific warnings, as they usually do, regarding this cyclone.

They would explain later on that their equipment was too obsolete to allow them to follow its trajectory.

Madagascar flood
At least 130 dead
560,000 affected
10,000 homeless
12,000 stranded
So, most of the population was not prepared to face the danger.

That night, Madagascar's capital, Antananarivo, was only hit by the tail winds of the cyclone, but it sustained massive damage.

For more than 12 hours there was no electricity and all the radio stations stopped broadcasting.

Trees were torn up by the roots, several old houses fell down killing people, electricity pylons were on the ground, roofs were blown off, waters rose in lower areas and ricefields around the capital were completely flooded.

Damaged north

A few days later, a new disaster, Cyclone Gloria hit.

It affected the north of Madagascar first and then other parts of the country, as the damage and casualties mounted.

Up to now, travelling on the countries eight national roads has been very difficult due to landslides and collapsed bridges.

Antananarivo inhabitants have had to cope with huge traffic jams - many roads are blocked.

But Antananarivo has not been as badly affected by the disaster as other parts of the island.

It appears that the north of the country has fared worst.

The towns of Sambava, Antalaha, Vohémar and Andapa in the Sava region seem to have been most badly hit by Gloria.

In Andapa, for example, 40 people are reported dead and 33 missing. A hundred houses were destroyed. Rivers flooded onto fields killing livestock and people alike.

The government is trying to cope and has appealed to the United Nations for help.

The main concerns are to rescue those trapped by the flooding, to feed people and give them drinkable water to protect them against diseases. A cholera epidemic has already killed more than 1,000 people since March 1999

For the moment, no more storms are forecast but the cyclone season is not over until the end of March.

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See also:

28 Feb 00 |  Africa
The floods: A regional disaster
28 Aug 99 |  World
Nature's lethal weapons
09 Mar 00 |  Africa
Rain disrupts relief operation
10 Mar 00 |  Africa
Aid reaches Madagascar
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