Madagascar braces for Cyclone Freddy

Madagascar braces for Cyclone Freddy

Tropical Cyclone Freddy was poised to strike eastern Madagascar on Tuesday, slightly weakening after brushing Mauritius with powerful winds and heavy rain, monitors said.

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Located 500 kilometres (310 miles) away, the storm was expected to make landfall on the island's eastern coast on Tuesday evening, the UN's disaster agency OCHA warned.

The storm will be "likely at an intense stage," packing winds of up to 120 kilometres (75 miles) per hour, it said.

Freddy on Monday passed some 120 kms northeast of Mauritius and 190 kms from the French island of La Reunion.

Although expected to have slightly weakened, it will still bring "devastating winds" and "very dangerous conditions," the French forecaster Meteo-France said.

The storm is likely to land north of Mananjary, a coastal town of 25,000 people that remains devastated by last year's Cyclone Batsirai, which killed more than 130 people across the country.

The UN's World Food Programme (WFP) said more than 2.3 million people in Madagascar could be affected by Freddy, and the cyclone would pass through Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

The large Indian Ocean island typically takes several hits during the annual November- April storm season.

Freddy is the first cyclone, and the second tropical weather system, to hit during the current season, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

Flights headed for Madagascar's eastern coast regions were cancelled, a journalist in the capital Madagascar reported.

Locals in the coastal region told AFP by phone that they were busy reinforcing roofs with sandbags to prevent them from being blown away.

Since Sunday authorities driving all-terrain vehicles equipped with loudhailers have been driving around the streets reminding people to stay safe.

Women and children were starting to move into schools and other shelters.

- Mauritius spared -

Authorities in Mauritius on Tuesday lifted a cyclone warning but warned that they remained on alert for heavy rain.

The lifting of the warning enabled government offices to re-open and shops, banks and public transport to resume services.

The international airport began operating again as of 8am, according to aviation authorities.

Freddy passed around 190 km off the coast of the Reunion Island Monday night without causing major damage, although about a quarter of households were without electricity Tuesday morning.

Authorities there lifted the storm alert early Tuesday.

The island's Roland-Garros international airport reopened Tuesday morning after it closed on Monday afternoon.

Last month a powerful storm named Cheneso smashed into northeastern Madagascarm bringing heavy winds and triggering downpours that caused extensive flooding, and killed at least 33 people after affecting more than 90,000.


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