Madagascar cyclone toll rises to 80
ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar - The death toll from Tropical Cyclone Batsirai has risen to 80, Madagascar's authorities said Wednesday, releasing data from the regions hardest-hit by the storm that left bodies buried under their collapsed homes.
The National Office for Risk and Disaster Management (BNGRC) said the toll had jumped from 30 since Tuesday, with 60 of the dead found in Ikongo district, near the east coast of the Indian Ocean island nation.
The BNGRC said that Batsirai, which made landfall on the weekend, had left 94,000 people in need of emergency assistance and forced 60,000 from their homes.
"It's devastation here," said Brunelle Razafintsiandrofa, a lawmaker from Ikongo who spoke to AFP by phone.
"Most of the victims died after their homes collapsed."
Many NGOs and UN agencies have begun to deploy resources and teams to help the victims of the cyclone which brought heavy rain and winds of 165 kilometers (102 miles) per hour.
France sent 60 emergency workers to help set up facilities for purifying drinking water, and to fly drones to assess damage in areas that are difficult to reach even at the best of times.
The tropical cyclone hit Madagascar on Saturday night, on a 150-kilometre long, sparsely populated and agricultural eastern coastal area.
As the cyclone moved inland, it caused flooding that ravaged rice fields in the country's central "breadbasket", raising fears of a humanitarian crisis.
Food security 'seriously affected'
German experts have arrived in the country, one of the poorest on the planet, to "support the humanitarian response in the Batsirai passage areas", the BNGRC said.
Work is underway on the 20 roads and the 17 bridges that were cut and had isolated villages, it added.
"We know for sure that rice fields, that rice crops will be damaged, will be lost," said Pasqualina DiSirio, director of the World Food Program in the country.
"This is the main crop for Malagasy people and they will be seriously affected in food security in the next three to six months if we don't do something immediately."
The UN agency distributed hot meals in Manakara, one of the most affected areas.
Numerous aid organizations, including Action Against Hunger, Handicap International, Save the Children and Medecins du Monde, were mobilized ahead of the cyclone, organizing equipment and medicines.
Alongside the aid provided by the government, they provided assistance to the victims: food, primary health care and the distribution of kitchen equipment, blankets, hygiene products.
Some 77 percent of Madagascar's 28 million people live below the poverty line, and the latest blow comes during a severe drought in the south which has plunged more than a million people into acute malnutrition, some facing famine.
Madagascar was still picking up the pieces after Tropical Storm Ana affected at least 131,000 people across the island late last month, with most of the 55 deaths occurring in the capital Antananarivo.
Ana also hit Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, causing dozens of deaths. -- Agence France-Presse