Madagascar death toll from Cyclone Batsirai hits 94 as rescuers advance

Jocelyn Germain, 56, cuts down a tree with an axe that fell on his son's house following the passage of Cyclone Batsirai, on Feb 8, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

ANTANANARIVO (AFP) - Rescuers on Thursday (Feb 10) reached almost all the regions of Madagascar devastated by Tropical Cyclone Batsirai, as authorities said the death toll had hit 94.

"Right now, the toll is 94 dead," said Faly Aritiana Fabien of the national disaster management agency, BNGRC.

"We've made great efforts to reach all of the areas hit by the cyclone. Now we have to make sure that emergency workers can help everyone in need," he told AFP.

Batsirai hit Madagascar last weekend, with heavy rain and winds of 165kmh.

The cyclone struck the Indian Ocean island less than two weeks after Tropical Storm Ana left 55 dead in Madagascar.

In the coastal town of Mananjary, which suffered the storm's greatest force, people have started clearing debris and tree limbs from the streets.

Some buildings had collapsed, other somehow stayed standing. Most of the town's homes were destroyed.

As the storm ploughed inland, crops were destroyed. Henriette, 66, survives by growing rice, pineapples and cassava. Her home was reduced to rubble.

"My house wasn't too strong to begin with, so I decided to stay at my sister's place. But I didn't have time to carry all my things, or my furniture," she said.

"When I came back Sunday morning, my house was destroyed."

According to Unicef, 112,000 people need emergency aid, including 62,000 people left homeless. Half of those needing help are children.

"The picture should continue to look something like this," as the areas where rescue workers have yet to reach are sparsely populated, said Jean Benoit Manhes, Unicef's deputy representative in Madagascar.

Jose Alain Rafanomezantsoa and his wife Harimalala, both 28, pose with their one-month old daughter in front of their tree-hit house. PHOTO: AFP

Access to clean drinking water is one of the main humanitarian needs.

"Children are especially sensitive to diseases linked to drinking dirty water, causing acute diarrhoeal diseases, as well as a risk of increased malaria," he said.

Some 42 per cent of children in Madagascar suffer from chronic malnutrition, even without a natural disaster.

"It's a race against time. If we can reach everyone in need within a week, we can avoid many deaths," he added.

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