Death toll from Madagascar cyclone rises to 16

People cross a flooded road in the Sabotsy Namehana commune, north of Antananarivo on February 14, 2012 after Cyclone Giovanna hit Madagascar. (AFP PHOTO / Andreea Campeanu)

ANTANANARIVO: At least 16 people were killed and 10,000 forced from their homes when Cyclone Giovanna pounded Madagascar, the disaster management bureau said Wednesday as it continued assessing the damage.

The storm struck in the early hours of Tuesday, lashing the towns of Tamatave and Brickaville on the east coast before drenching the capital Antananarivo about 220 kilometres (135 miles) inland.

By Wednesday morning, the storm had passed over the vast Indian Ocean island nation, leaving one person dead in the capital, eight in Brickaville and seven in Moramanga, 114 kilometres east of Antananarivo, according to officials.

The disaster management bureau said the death toll could still increase. Of the 592 communities hit by the storm, contact had been restored with just 80.

Officials said 65 people had been injured and 10,852 forced from their homes, after 3,380 houses were completely destroyed, according to reports compiled by Wednesday evening.

The main highway running northeast from the capital was cut off as well as another to Brickaville, while blackouts were reported across the country.

Forty government buildings and 38 schools were also damaged.

With sustained winds of 105 kilometres per hour and gusts of up to 150 kilometres per hour, the storm tore roofs off houses, damaged buildings and toppled trees.

Antananarivo's streets were mostly empty Wednesday as authorities urged the public to stay indoors.

Cyclone season in Madagascar runs from November to April.

In February 2011, Cyclone Bingiza killed at least 34 people.

In 2010, tropical storm Hubert killed at least 83.

Madagascar already has a wary eye on another tropical cyclone churning in the Indian Ocean and heading westward, although its exact path remains uncertain and it is still days away from any possible landfall.





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