Recovery begins after cyclone strike

Almost 65 people are still missing a week after Cyclone Ernest lashed southwest Madagascar, killing 15 people and leaving thousands homeless, aid workers told IRIN.

The World Food Programme (WFP) on Tuesday said it had already started sending emergency supplies of rice to thousands of people affected by the cyclone and the ensuing tropical storm that struck the southwestern part of the country last week at wind speeds of up to over 100 km/h.

"The latest assessment of the affected area shows that the damage is not as extensive as that caused by previous cyclones," UN Resident Coordinator Bouri Sanhouidi told IRIN.

Last year Cyclone Gafilo battered the northeast coast with wind speeds of up to 300 km/h, leaving 241 people dead and causing serious damage to vanilla and rice production.

"The town of Toliary has been the most affected but already the water has started to subside. Through the assistance of local officials and NGOs the nearly 5,000 people who lost their shelter have managed to find accommodation with their families or are housed in churches," noted Sanhouidi.

WFP said in statement on Tuesday that food aid would at first be targeted toward "5,285 of the worst-affected people while assessments ... are being conducted to determine the extent of the damage". It added that all victims would eventually get food, and more than 50 mt of rice was expected to be distributed to those most affected in Toliary.

WFP communication officer Steffania Trassari told IRIN the cyclone and tropical storm had struck a double blow against a local population that had earlier experienced food shortages due to drought.

"WFP had already prepositioned about 5,200 mt of food in and around Toliary, from which about 50 mt of rice will be used. This food was originally positioned to assist people affected by drought make it through the lean season," Trassari said.

Sanhouidi noted that while the "situation was under control" medicines were needed to prevent the spread of water-borne disease.