Cyclone Batsirai leaves over a dozen dead, thousands homeless in Madagascar

(LONDON) — More than a dozen people are dead and thousands are homeless after a tropical storm struck Madagascar over the weekend, the second storm to batter the island nation in weeks.

Cyclone Batsirai made landfall on Madagascar’s eastern coast late Saturday before sweeping across the central and southern parts on Sunday. The storm departed Madagascar on Monday morning and returned to sea, but heavy rainfall is forecast for southern Madagascar through Tuesday, according to the country’s meteorology department, fueling fears of more flooding.

The cyclone’s torrential rains and powerful winds flooded roads and farmland, ripped roofs from homes and buildings and knocked down trees and utility poles.

According to Madagascar’s National Office for Risk and Disaster Management, at least 20 people have died and an estimated 69,000 others have been displaced from their homes due to Batsirai, which was classified by the country’s meteorology department as dangerous.

Hundreds of schools were affected by the storm, leaving an estimated 9,271 children out of school. The cyclone also damaged various infrastructure, including disruptions to power and water supplies in some areas, the National Office for Risk and Disaster Management said.

The worst-affected areas were on the eastern side of the country, though the full scope of the damage was still being assessed Monday.

Humanity & Inclusion, a France-based independent charity that has worked in Madagascar for over 30 years, has a 163-person team on the ground helping authorities evaluate and respond to the disaster. Vincent Dalonneau, Humanity & Inclusion’s director for Madagascar, told ABC News that the effects of Batsirai “are devastating.”

“The amount of destruction is significant and for many this is only the beginning. The storm may have passed, but now the affected communities must restart from scratch — rebuilding their homes, schools and hospitals,” Dalonneau said. “Right now, we only have initial estimates of the damage caused. What remains a great challenge is that more isolated areas have yet to be assessed. So, we expect to see the extent of destruction rising in the coming days as we get a clearer image of the situation.”

Dalonneau said some isolated villages are more than a two-day walk away, which make damage assessments and aid deliveries even more difficult.

One of the affected residents was a 32-year-old single mother named Josephine. She said she and her young daughter evacuated their home near the eastern city of Mahanoro on Friday night amid heavy rain. When they returned, she said their house was “completely destroyed,” according to Humanity & Inclusion.

Batsirai, which means help in Shona, an official language in Zimbabwe, arrived less than two weeks after Tropical Storm Ana barreled through southeastern Africa, killing scores of people in Madagascar, Mozambique and Malawi.

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