Cyclone Emnati has struck the south-eastern coast of Madagascar, ripping roofs off houses and raising fears of flooding and food shortages, just weeks after a previous tropical storm caused widespread destruction.
More than 30,000 people were moved to safe accommodation before Emnati arrived, and Madagascar’s risk and disaster management office estimates more than 250,000 people could be impacted by the latest cyclone.
There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries from Emnati, but local authorities reported extensive damage to houses and other buildings in at least one south-eastern city.
Madagascar, an island off the east coast of Africa renowned for its wildlife and unspoiled natural treasures, has now been hit by four major tropical storms in the last month, killing nearly 200 people already and compounding issues of food insecurity.
A drought in the south of the country left around 400,000 at risk of starvation last year, according to the UN.
A string of aid agencies warned that Emnati will be a double blow for the eastern and south-eastern regions that were hit by Cyclone Batsirai early this month.
Batsirai ultimately left more than 120 people dead and displaced 143,000.
More than 20,000 houses were destroyed or damaged by Batsirai, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said, and more than 21,000 people remain displaced.
The UN humanitarian office said before Emnati arrived that it was in “a race against time” to protect people again.
Emnati made landfall around midnight local time in the district of Manakara Atsimo in the south-east, with average sustained winds of 84mph and gusts as strong as 118mph, Madagascar’s Department of Meteorology said.
Six regions in the south-east are on red alert, most of them already hard-hit by Batsirai.
The UN and other aid organisations have warned of the risk of critical food shortages due to crops being destroyed and transport links disrupted.
Forecasters have also predicted eight to 12 more cyclones in the Madagascar region before the cyclone season normally ends in May.
Emnati is expected to cross the south-eastern part of Madagascar and spin out to sea again, according to the meteorology department, meaning it should miss mainland Africa, where previous cyclones have also caused deaths and destruction.