Tens of thousands displaced from homes as Cyclone Batsirai hits Madagascar

A man secures his home during the adverse weather, in Antananarivo, Madagascar. Credit: Cyclone Batsirai destroyed homes and brought down trees.

Tens of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes after a devastating cyclone tore through Madagascar with strong winds and heavy rain.

An estimated 45,000 people have been displaced by Cyclone Batsirai which landed on the island's east cost on Saturday, the National Office for Risk and Disaster Management said.

After gaining strength in the Indian Ocean with gale-force winds reaching peaks of 145mph, the cyclone made landfall near Mananjary, 310 miles east of the capital Antananarivo.

Now that Batsirai- which means help in the Shona language- is on land, its winds have slowed to about 80mph.

Experts are concerned Cyclone Batsirai could prove to be even more destructive than Storm Ana, which hit last month. Credit: Alexander Joe/AP

Residents of Mananjary and the nearby towns of Manakara and Nosy Varika report that the cyclone has blown the roofs off homes, knocked down trees and utility poles, making roads impassable.

Joellah Razanivomanana had a sleepless night after her home was damaged.

“The roof flew away” Ms Razanivomanana, 21, told The Associated Press.

“We didn’t sleep all night. We took shelter under the table and under the bed because we were afraid that the house would fall on us.”

“Almost all the houses are collapsed and the roofs are blown off. So almost all of us in Mananjary are affected,” she added.

Food stocks have been prepared to distribute to those in need. Credit: AP

Anticipating widespread destruction, most land and sea transport has been suspended on Madagascar, the world’s fourth-largest island.

“Almost all regions of the island are at risk,” the National Office for Risk and Disaster Management said, warning that the cyclone threatens nearly 600,000 of the island’s 28 million people.

Mananjary- which has been without electricity since Friday night- is “devastated”, Jeremia Razafiharimanana, of the Risk and Disaster Management office said.

Much of Madagascar is already waterlogged from tropical storm Ana and heavy rains in January, with the new cyclone only adding to the damage.

Storm Ana killed 55 people when it hit the Indian Ocean island nation last month.

Batsirai is classified as a dangerous storm and is expected to inflict “significant and widespread damage, particularly flooding in the east, the south east and the central highlands,” said the meteorology department in a statement.