Cyclone Batsirai has just passed to the north of Réunion, a French island east of Madagascar. It is set to bear down on the town of Farafangana on the east coast of Madagascar Friday evening, with winds close to 200 kmph. It is then expected to move across the centre of the island, where the capital is located, before heading west towards Menabe.
“We’re taking the threat extremely seriously,” says Vincent Dalonneau, HI’s director in Madagascar.
"Many people here live in makeshift houses that won’t withstand winds of this ferocity. We’re very worried about the most vulnerable individuals, people with disabilities and older people, who often find it harder to reach safety.”
“Even more alarming is the fact that heavy floods hit all these areas a week ago and the water is there. This could mean we’re hit by a worse disaster much faster, particular in Atsinanana and Analamanga. The drought and catchment areas in the southwest also risk causing flash floods and the formation of powerful ‘rivers’.”
“We’re readying our teams and preparing for the worst,” adds Vincent. “We need to start by getting the most vulnerable people to a safe place with the help of our Madagascan partner organisations. We’re also coordinating our bases in the country to assess the situation and needs once the cyclone has passed. This means readying vehicles, and pre-positioning equipment such as wheelchairs, crutches and kits for immediate distribution.”
Families often lose everything in a cyclone, including their homes. HI is putting together cooking kits with plates, beakers, pots and other items, and repair kits for homes and shelters containing sheet metal, fixtures and fittings, and wood. Teams are also preparing ygiehne kits equipped with soap, jerricans and water treatment equipment.
“We’re also organizing ourselves to create a psychosocial support team that could deploy to affected areas,” adds Vincent.“Similarly, we’re preparing to mobilize a team of rehabilitation professionals to provide rapid support in the event of injuries.”
Disaster risk preparedness
HI is actively involved in disaster risk preparedness initiatives in Madagascar. This work includes drawing up contingency plans, identifying safe places to seek shelter, and helping people prepare for climate hazards.
Another aim of these projects is to involve the most vulnerable people and people with disabilities in emergency preparedness plans. Non-profit organisations, teachers and local emergency teams help implement early warning systems, organise simulation exercises, prepare contingency stocks, and other activities. Emergency preparedness projects are vitally important to mitigate the impact of natural disasters on the population of Madagascar, one of the poorest countries in the world.
HI has worked in Madagascar since 1986 and employs more then 160 staff in the country.