Rescue effort starts as Cyclone Emnati lashes Madagascar
Rescuers in Madagascar on Wednesday began to assess the damage caused by Cyclone Emnati, which overnight lashed the island nation still reeling from the impact of another cyclone earlier this month.
Faly Aritiana Fabien, a senior official at Madagascar's National Risk Management Office (BNGRC), told AFP no human casualties had been reported but said it was important to "remain cautious" less than 24 hours after Emnati's arrival.
Houses were submerged in brown water, debris and uprooted trees, an AFP correspondent saw, as the weather conditions prevented rescuers from carrying out thorough searches in the worst-affected areas in the south and southeast.
Emnati "made landfall around 2300 GMT just north of the southeastern district of Manakara", Fabien had earlier told AFP.
The storm, which passed just north of the Indian Ocean islands of Mauritius and Reunion, had weakened slightly by the time it reached the eastern coast of Madagascar.
But it was still packing winds of around 100 kilometres per hour (62 miles per hour) and gusts of 140 kph, according to Meteo-France.
The cyclone is forecast to exit Madagascar Wednesday night, but national weather forecaster Meteo-Madagascar warned of strong gusts, heavy rain and widespread flooding around the southern and southeastern districts.
Meteo-France has warned that another tropical storm may form in the next five days.
UN agencies had on Tuesday said they were preparing "for the worst".
Another storm, Cyclone Batsirai, struck the island on February 5, affecting some 270,000 people and claiming 121 lives.
At the same time, some 21,000 people remain displaced from when Tropical Storm Ana struck in late January.
Another 5,000 were affected last week by Tropical Storm Dumako.
More than 37,000 people have been moved to emergency shelters as a precautionary measure.
One of the poorest countries in the world, Madagascar's southern region has been ravaged by drought.
The UN says it is the worst in 40 years and blames climate change for the crisis.
Madagascar is prone to numerous storms and cyclones between November and April every year.