Cyclone Batsirai threatens wildlife paradise of Madagascar after landfall in Mauritius

The island is recovering from flooding in January

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Forecasts said Tropical Cyclone Batsirai is increasing in intensity and is expected to pass north of the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius on Wednesday evening and make landfall in central Madagascar on Saturday afternoon.

The Global Disaster Alert and Co-ordination System said Batsirai has been upgraded and classified as Category 4.

The system, a joint United Nations and the European Union Commission project, said the cyclone’s wind speed had increased to 231 kilometres an hour on Wednesday morning.

Madagascar’s meteorology directorate has alerted seafarers and issued cyclone alerts in 16 districts projected to be in the storm’s path.

The GDACS forecasts that the cyclone has the potential to intensify in the next 48 hours, posing serious threats to Mauritius, Madagascar and the French overseas department of Reunion.

The storm could damage the wildlife haven, a habitat for many rare species. Approximately 95 per cent of the island's reptiles, 92 per cent of its mammals and 89 per cent plant are not found elsewhere, the World Wildlife fund said.

Southern Africa has anguished memories of the 2019 Cyclone Idai, which left a trail of destruction and deaths in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

Madagascar, home to 28 million people, is still recovering from flooding in January, which killed 10 people.

Heavy rains caused by Tropical Storm Ana flooded parts of the capital city, Antananarivo, making more than 12,000 homeless,

At least 2,400 residences in the capital are flooded and low-lying areas of the city are in deep water, officials said. Six houses in higher parts of the city have collapsed because of the rains.

Three gymnasiums in the city are being used to house displaced families and others are sheltering in schools and local government offices.

The World Meteorological Organisation late last year said that Africa would face challenges including intense cyclones in the coming decades, noting that “the rates of sea level rise along the tropical and South Atlantic coasts and Indian Ocean are higher than the global mean rate.”

The WMO said the 2022 cyclone season in the Indian Ocean is expected to end in April with the exception of the Seychelles and Mauritius, where it is expected to end in May.

Updated: February 02, 2022, 7:38 PM