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Cyclone Freddy unnerves region

MADAGASCAR suspended schools and transport in the path of tropical cyclone Freddy yesterday, which was expected to make landfall in the south-east of the country last night.

In nearby Mauritius, authorities there had briefly grounded all flights and shut the country’s stock exchange as Freddy approached the island on Monday — with emergency teams bracing for heavy rains and floods.

After crossing Madagascar, Freddy could emerge in the Mozambican Channel and strengthen again, before making landfall in Mozambique and potentially moving on to Zimbabwe — affecting more than 3,3 million in total.

In Madagascar, the cyclone was expected to hit Mananjary District, about 270 km from the capital Antananarivo, with winds of nearly 155 km per hour, Madagascar’s meteorological services said. Heavy rains and high waves were expected near the impact zone, the International Federation of Red Cross said, issuing a red alert for the area.

All traffic in Cyclone Freddy’s projected path was suspended overnight from yesterday to today, the country’s ministry of Transport and Meteorology said. The ministry of Education also said it had suspended classes in at least 10 regions.

Cyclone Freddy is expected to make landfall in the country nearly a month after Storm Cheneso battered the island nation of 29 million killing 33 people and forcing thousands from their homes. Madagascar is hit by an average of 1,5 cyclones every year, the highest in Africa, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).

“It is expected to cause locally devastating winds and a very dangerous sea state near the impact zone in Madagascar,” UNOCHA said on Monday.

The cyclone passed 120km northwest of Mauritius on Monday afternoon, forcing some 500 people into shelters, while damaged power lines left another 500 families without electricity, the national broadcaster reported. Flights which had been grounded late on Sunday had resumed yesterday morning, according to Mauritius’ airports operator. — Reuters

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