Madagascar appeals for help for flood victims

ANTANANARIVO, March 7 (Reuters) - The Madagascar government on Tuesday appealed for food and medicine to help hundreds of thousands of people displaced by floods.

Though overshadowed by the tragedy in nearby Mozambique, 600,000 people on the Indian Ocean island have been forced from their homes by flooding from two cyclones that struck within the last three weeks, according to a United Nations estimate.

Cyclone Eline roared through Madagascar in mid-February before heading on to devastate Mozambique, located on the African mainland about 400 km (250 miles) west across the Mozambique Channel. Last week, Cyclone Gloria passed over, followed by heavy downpours.

The government says 94 people have died in the floods, but aid workers expect the final death toll to be higher. Hundreds are believed to have died in Mozambique and nearly a million have been left homeless there.

In a written document, the Madagascar government asked international aid agencies to provide food, medicines, blankets and water purification products.

It also appealed for aircraft to distribute relief to the displaced, most of whom are believed to be in extremely remote areas of the huge, sparsely populated island.

The government only completed an initial assessment of the crisis, by flying over the worst affected areas, on Monday. It estimates that at least 10,000 homes have been swept away and 12,000 people in the impoverished nation are out of reach of help.

Chrystian Solofodimby of the U.N.'s children's fund UNICEF in Madagascar told Reuters that U.N. agencies would meet on Tuesday to discuss their response to the crisis.

"What is very important is logistics support, helicopters and aircraft, because some of these areas are very remote even when the weather is good," he said.

A cholera epidemic has killed more than 1,000 people on the island in the past year and an estimated 15,500 cases have been treated. Aid workers said they feared the flooding would exacerbate the epidemic.


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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