Tropical cyclone Freddy, which has been sweeping across the Indian Ocean for several days, has killed 7 people as it passes through Madagascar. The cyclone has affected 85 000 people in 7 regions. Around 3 000 shelters have been flooded, with approximately 12 000 houses destroyed so far.
It has weakened considerably as it made landfall in Mozambique on Friday as a moderate tropical storm.
Freddy developed on 6 February off the coast of north-west of Australia and affected island nations, including Mauritius and La Réunion, during its long journey across the entire South Indian Ocean. This kind of super zonal track is very rare. The most recent recorded cases were Tropical Cyclones Leon-Eline and Hudah, both in 2000, which like 2023 was a la Niña year.
Freddy weakened from an intense category 4 equivalent (on the Saffir Simpson scale) into a category 3 cyclone ahead of landfall on the eastern Malagasy coast near the town of Mananjary in the evening of 21 February with sustained windspeeds of 150 km/h . This was the same region which was hit in February 2022 by tropical cyclones Batsirai and Emnati – two of five tropical cyclones which caused devastation and loss of life in Madagascar last year.
Madagascar’s National Meteorological and Hydrological Service issued regular warnings and advisories to the population, backed up by forecasts guidance from WMO’s regional specialized meteorological centre La Réunion (Météo-France). The National Risk and Disaster Management Office said there were seven deaths, according to initial reports, and more than 78 000 people affected.
Tropical Cyclone Freddy was less intense and more compact than Batsirai one year ago and so its impact was smaller. But, most importantly, early warnings led to effective early action. Mass evacuations from the sea shore helped limit loss of life.
Madagascar is one of many developing countries which are targeted by the UN Initiative to ensure that everyone is protected by early warning systems in the next five years.
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