A category four tropical storm, Cyclone Giovanna, is expected to make landfall on 14 February close to the Madagascan east coast town of Toamasina and thereafter head for the capital Antananarivo.
“This is a particularly strong one [cyclone] and we have not seen one like this for some years… If Giovanna lives up to the category four predictions and hits south of the large coastal port of Toamasina, as predicted, it has the potential to cause massive destruction. Not since Cyclone Indlala in 2007 or perhaps even farther back in time have we had a cyclone with this capacity for large-scale damage. We are calling on all parties to take this storm extremely seriously,” John Uniack Davis, country director for CARE, told IRIN.
Giovanna is being compared by the Malagasy Meteorological Service to the 1994 Cyclone Geralda, because it was expected to follow a similar trajectory through densely populated areas. Geralda killed about 200 people, displaced 40,000 and affected another 500,000.
A briefing note by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said Giovanna was expected to bring “heavy rain and winds of between 211 and 250km/h. It is forecast to then cross the island and pass by the capital Antananarivo as a category three tropical cyclone and then enter the Mozambique Channel as a category one tropical cyclone by Wednesday 15 February…
“The initial area of impact is expected to be between the northeast district of Fenerive Est and the southeast district of Vohipeno. Giovanna currently has a diameter of 400km, which can increase to 500km as it approaches the coast. The two regions likely to be most affected are Antsinanana and Analanjirofo,” the OCHA briefing note said.
The briefing said the cyclone could “isolate” Toamasina, as well as the areas of Brickaville, Mahanoro, Vatomandry and Fenerive Est, and communications systems “may be disrupted in the two regions most at risk, which are Atsinanana and Analanjirofo”.
An aid worker based in Antananarivo, who declined to be identified, told IRIN that even those citizens in the capital who were usually “well-informed” of events were unaware of the tropical storm’s imminent arrival.
The cyclone is expected to arrive on the first anniversary of Cyclone Bingiza which killed at least 14 people, destroyed nearly 6,000 homes and displaced 19,000.