Less than two weeks after being battered by Cyclone Giovanna, another violent storm has swept over Madagascar killing 72 people and leaving 70,000 homeless, according to the National Disaster Risk Management Agency.
Tropical storm Irina brought heavy rains, especially in the southeast of the country around the towns of Mananjary and Manakara, starting late on 26 February. While most people had been warned of Giovanna's destructive potential, Irina took the Indian Ocean island largely by surprise, destroying roads and houses already weakened by the first cyclone.
Most of the casualties are in the southeastern town of Ifanadiana, where a mudslide engulfed dwellings and caused a traffic accident involving a minibus.
Irina has brought the total death toll from Madagascar’s current cyclone season, which usually runs from January to March, to over 100.
“While our teams continue to respond to the needs of people who were left with nothing after Cyclone Giovanna, we are now also assessing the effects of Irina,” said John Uniack Davis, country director of CARE International, which is providing emergency assistance in affected areas.
The three main roads connecting the southeastern town of Vangaindrano to the rest of the country are still under water or mud, leaving a CARE team stationed there stranded along with the town's residents.
“Many houses are flooded and people are taking refuge in central locations. The population is at great risk from crop loss and people might well lose their livelihoods,” Davis told IRIN, adding that 90 percent of rice paddies in the area have now been under water for five days. Rice is Madagascar's staple crop.
Davis said his organization usually distributes food for a limited amount of time after a natural disaster and then introduces food-for-work programmes in the medium term. “We want to provide support to restore people’s self-sufficiency. The problem is that it’s already quite late in the rice season, so we might not be able to salvage the rice harvest, even when using short-cycle seeds. We might intervene with helping the people grow other kinds of crops.”