Indian Ocean: Bracing for yet another cyclone
JOHANNESBURG, 26 February 2007 (IRIN) - Madagascar is bracing for yet another cyclone as "Gamede" it makes its way across the Indian Ocean. Gamede has already taken its toll in the neighbouring Indian Ocean islands of Mauritius and La Reunion claiming two lives and injuring nine respectively.
According to Gianluca Ferrera, deputy director of the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) in Madagascar, the authorities "are absolutely on alert and closely monitoring the direction it [Gamede] is going to take."
Gamede follows Cylone Favio which brushed the southern tip of Madagascar before tearing through Mozambique's central province of Inhambane on Thursday. The Indian Ocean island has already been hit six times since December, with 'Bondo' at the end of December and 'Clovis' in January, causing the most damage.
"All prevalent information indicates Gamede has turned south but a number of coastal towns have already been [affected]," Ferrera said. The main concern is that areas along Madagascar's eastern coast are vulnerable after taking an earlier pounding from 'Clovis' which caused heavy flooding.
Even if the cyclone does not directly hit the island, "heavy rains will certainly [worsen] the situation," Ferrera warned. The food aid agency's operations have already been hampered in some areas. "Feeding of approximately 100,000 people in the affected areas has been delayed. We were supposed to start today [Monday] - [but] as a response to the weather we can only start on Wednesday, we are waiting to see what Gamede will do," he added.
Meanwhile, Mozambican authorities are keeping a close watch on Gamede as they take stock of the damage caused by 'Favio'. "There has been serious damage," Fernanda Teixeira, Secretary General of the Red Cross in Mozambique told IRIN.
According to the Mozambican National Institute of Disaster Management, at least 40,000 people were affected by the cyclone. Mozambique is also trying to deal with 140,000 people displaced by the floods in the Zambezi valley in the centre of the country following heavy rains earlier this month.
The coastal town of Vilanculos was "most affected where an estimated 6,000 houses were partially or completely destroyed," Teixeira said. "People have been helped with shelter but families want to stay in their homes and start rebuilding," she added.
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