Madagascar + 1 more

Powerful new cyclone edges closer to Madagascar

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By Honore Razafintsalama

ANTANANARIVO, April 2 (Reuters) - Madagascar, still recovering from widespread cyclone damage one month ago, braced itself on Sunday for the arrival of a new cyclone described by meteorologists as ''very intense.''

The Indian Ocean island republic's meteorological office said Cyclone Hudah, located about 200 km (120 miles) away at noon (0900 GMT) on Sunday, had moved 50 km (30 miles) nearer four hours later.

It was heading slowly towards northeast Madagascar with winds up to 300 km (200 miles) per hour and ''very heavy'' precipitation of rain, the office said.

Madagascar is slowly recovering from devastation wrought over the past month by two cyclones. Storm damage and floods were even more destructive in the nearby southern African country of Mozambique.

Meteorologists forecast the hurricane would reach the northeast coast of Madagascar during Sunday night. But the entire island should remain on maximum alert, they added.

The new cyclone appeared to cover an area of hundreds of square kilometres of the Indian Ocean, they said.

Radio Madagascar called on residents of Toamasina, the country's main commercial port on the northeast coast, to take precautions.

Cyclone Hudah was reported heading for the same area devastated in late February by Cyclone Eline and in early March by Cyclone Gloria, which caused heavy loss of life and destruction of property.

The precise death toll from the two earlier cyclones has not been determined. Many of the areas affected lack efficient communications and have minimal health facilities.

At one time United Nations officials said about 600,000 people had been affected, but subsequent rescue operations indicated that the figure was lower than originally estimated.

Many of those whose flimsy thatch-roofed homes were destroyed in the earlier cyclones have only recently managed to rebuild them. Now they face the new threat from Cyclone Hudah, local administrators said.

Both Eline and Gloria moved across Madagascar and headed west to Mozambique, causing widespread flooding and destruction and forcing hundreds of thousands to seek refuge in camps on higher ground.

''It is too early to say whether Cyclone Hudah represents a new threat to Mozambique, but this is a distinct possibility,'' one meteorologist said.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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