36 confirmed dead in Madagascar storm, scores feared drowned
"The latest toll, established at 4:00 pm (1300 GMT) is 36 dead, 42 missing, 17 injured and 6,088 homeless" onland, rescue service official Farah Rasoarimamonjy told AFP.
"With regard to the Samson ferry, we can confirm that there were two survivors but we have no official information about the other passengers," she said. "We cannot count them among the dead or the missing."
In the Comoro Islands, however, which lie between the large Indian Ocean nation and Africa's eastern coast, government spokesman and Transport Minister Ali Msaidie said the ferry was believed to have sunk, costing at least 118 lives.
The Samson had set sail from the Comoros with 120 passengers and crew on Saturday night, bound for the northwest Madagascar port of Mahajanga, but one of two survivors, a woman, had said she saw it go down.
The woman, who managed to grab hold of a life raft with another Comoran after she was hurled off the ferry by shifting cargo, reached the Madagascan coast and explained how she had seen the Samson struck by a huge wave.
"We will decree three days of national mourning starting today," Msaidie told reporters.
According to the manifest of the Samson ferry, the ship was carrying 70 Comorans, 25 Madagascans, and two French nationals. Eight of the passengers were children, five from the Comoros and three from Madagascar, said the ship's owner, Nadir Joulette Aly.
The Samson also had a crew of 11 Comorans and 10 Madagascans, he said.
Madagascan rescue official Rasoarimamonjy confirmed earlier reports that a fishing boat had sunk near Mahajanga. One crew member had survived and another was confirmed dead, but there were no details about the other crew, said to number 15.
The trawler, which belonged to fisheries company Somapeche, capsized in the mouth of the Betsiboka River during the storm.
Somapeche deputy director Ralison Andrianirina confirmed the trawler had sunk and that there was one survivor and one confirmed death.
"The Vega 9 trawler, which had 15 on board, sank overnight Sunday to Monday in the mouth of the Betsiboka River," Andrianirina told AFP by phone from Mahajanga.
"We are still looking for 13 missing seamen even if our hopes wane by the minute. We found the boat, whose hull was visible at low tide, in the middle of the river," he said.
The crewmember who survived said the trawler capsized after being hit in quick succession by two huge waves. He had been able to swim ashore to Katsepy village, Andrianirina said.
The body of the boat's mechanic has been formally identified by his family, he added.
The UN Children's Fund said in a statement issued in Paris that a plane carrying 36 tonnes of emergency aid was due to land in Madagascar on Thursday.
"Nearly 10,000 children under age five and 2,500 pregnant women have been affected and are in an extremely vulnerable situation," the statement said.
"In emergency situations such as those following cyclones, children are exposed to numerous risks including diarrhoea, malaria and malnutrition," it said.
Gafilo ripped through north Madagascar at the weekend, its winds of up to 180 kilometers per hour (110 mph) devastating the town of Antalaha in the northeast.
Rice paddies on the outskirts of Antalaha were destroyed as was much of the vanilla crop. Northeast Madagascar, where Gafilo first made landfall at the weekend, is known as the island's vanilla triangle, with much of the world's supply of the aromatic pod being grown and processed here.
The storm lay stationary in the Mozambique Channel on Monday and Tuesday before swirling around and crossing southern Madagascar, its winds significantly weaker and inflicting little damage before heading out to sea early Thursday.
cf-afm/nb/jkb AFP 111749 GMT 03 04
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Received by NewsEdge Insight: 03/11/2004 12:52:43
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