Impact of Hellen less than feared; needs assessments continue

from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 01 Apr 2014

Message sent on behalf of Mr. Ignacio Leon-Garcia Head of OCHA Regional Office for Southern Africa

In Madagascar, Hellen weakened into a depression and exited the island this morning, 01 April. It is currently located 140 km north of Beselampy. While wind speeds have decreased to 45 km/h (with peaks of 60 km/h), continued rains could still bring flooding and landslides, although these rains are also expected to lessen tomorrow. A Blue (post-cyclone) Alert remains in place for the regions of Boeny and Melaky. While this system has been remarkably erratic, according to the National Meteorological Department it is currently too weak to re-intensify. Attached is a map showing latest predicted trajectory.

A boat capsized off the coast of north-west Madagascar yesterday, killing three people with nine still missing. Telephone lines are intact, and the National Bureau of Risk and Disaster Management (BNGRC) in consultation with local authorities have assessed many of the affected districts – this information is being compiled. However, due to inaccessibility, certain remote and generally thinly populated areas have not yet been assessed, in particular in Soalala and Mitsinjo districts. Due to bad weather, aerial assessments will only start tomorrow early morning over such isolated areas. So far assessments indicate that 856 people have been displaced, many of them having moved preemptively, and most should be able to return home in the coming days. In Mahajanga and Soalala around 100 houses were reportedly destroyed. Furthermore, 3 schools were damaged, 4 water points flooded, and over 2,000 ha of rice fields submerged. The Food Security Cluster is planning an assessment in the coming week to determine longer-term impacts.

The Ministry of Health, supported by partners, is mobilizing pre-positioned medical supplies for 1,000 people, while BNGRC has around 2 tons of food for distribution. WFP is also dispatching one ton of high energy biscuits and 35 tons of foodstuffs to support the response. An operational base has been established at Mahajanga, with a 500 ton-capacity warehouse open to all humanitarian partners. Other humanitarian partners are also supporting the response.

In the Comoros, which Hellen passed on 29 and 30 March, damage to houses and infrastructure are being reported. On the island of Anjouan, which is considered the most affected, roads have been cut off and two villages (Koni Djodjo and Chiconi) remain inaccessible due to landslides. In the village of Salamani, 69 households (389 people) have been displaced and are being hosted by relatives. Those displaced include 114 children under age 5, 13 pregnant women, and 36 people over age 60. An estimated 33 houses, most of them traditional mud houses, were destroyed. In total, five localities in Anjouan were flooded. In addition, 200 households (around 1400 people) need to be temporarily relocated due to the risk of landslides. Temporary relocation sites have been identified and the process will start as soon possible. Relocated and displaced households, including those hosted by relatives, will require assistance (food and non-food items) for two to three weeks.

On the island of Grande Comores, one road was damaged and reports have been received of flooded houses. Authorities are planning to assess the situation today. Assessments are also ongoing on the island of Mohéli, which registered one death and the flooding of three villages (Zirindani, Tsamia, Walla) due to storm surge. The areas of Nioumachioi, Miringoni and Hamaba remain isolated due to landslides. It has been reported that in Djandro, Itsamia, Kangani, Nioumachio and Boingoma many houses are partially damaged, and that the region of Djandro remains without electricity.

The General Directorate of Civil Protection (DGSC) is planning to dispatch over the next few days sufficient shelter and food supplies for those affected in Anjouan. UNICEF also has additional supplies in-country if required. Assessment results will provide a more detailed picture of needs over the next few days. Map showing latest information on Comoros.

In Mozambique, the Government is still assessing the impact of heavy rains over the northern provinces of Cabo Delgado and Nampula late last week, which were brought on by the system that eventually became Tropical Cyclone Hellen. The process is being hampered by rain-damaged roads. With a much-weakened Hellen forecasted to hit Mozambique as a low pressure system around 06 April, authorities and partners are meeting today to assess the potential impact and draft response plans.

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