Emnati strikes: Madagascar hit by fourth cyclone in a month

Thousands are homeless and more than 200 have died due to storms

A man removes a fallen branch from the roof of a house during Cyclone Emnati in Fort Dauphin, Madagascar. Photo: of Louise du Plessis, Twitter @Louisedp3137 via Reuters
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Madagascar was battered by its fourth cyclone in a month on Tuesday night and into Wednesday, further hampering recovery efforts and putting lives in danger.

Winds from Cyclone Emnati reached up to 135 kilometres per hour when it made landfall on the island's eastern Fianarantsoa Province, between Manakara City and Farafagana City. It later moved inland, losing some power as it went.

Three prior storms over the past five weeks have led to more 200 deaths in Madagascar as well as in Mozambique and Malawi in mainland Africa.

Tropical Storm Ana struck on January 22, Tropical Cyclone Batsirai on February 5 and Tropical Storm Dumako on February 15.

“In the last few years, we have noted more warming of the oceans,” Evans Mukolwe, an African meteorological expert who is a consultant for the UN’s intergovernmental authority on climate prediction, told AP.

“This change in climatic patterns in the Indian Ocean normally leads to an increase of cyclones in the south-western part.

“Climate change is having severe impacts on Africa.”

In preparation for the storm, the government issued a red alert and moved more than 30,600 people to emergency shelters. Thousands were already homeless after the previous storms.

The UN weather agency said eight to 12 more cyclones are expected in Madagascar and the southern African region by the time cyclone season ends in May. The agency had previously warned of more intense “high-impact tropical cyclones, coastal flooding and intense rainfall linked to climate change".

Cyclone Idai and Cyclone Kenneth caused massive destruction and hundreds of deaths in Mozambique and neighbouring countries in 2019, leading the UN weather agency to send a task force to the region.

One of the poorest countries in the world, the southern region of the Indian Ocean island nation has been ravaged by drought, the worst in 40 years, the UN reported.

Africa’s islands and coastal cities are at risk of more extreme weather in the coming years, the UN’s intergovernmental panel on climate change said.

A little more than 50 major African cities are exposed to severe climate-related threats posed by sea level and air temperature rises, which could lead to severe coastal flooding, marine heatwaves, ocean acidification and reduced oxygen levels, the panel said in a report.

“Sea level rise coupled with storm surges and waves will exacerbate coastal inundation and the potential for increased saltwater intrusion into aquifers,” said the report.

The surface of the Indian Ocean has warmed faster than the global average which is forecast to give rise to more cyclones and more droughts.

Cyclone Batsirai — in pictures

Updated: February 23, 2022, 5:07 PM