Cyclone Batsirai death toll rises to over 90 in Madagascar

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The death toll from Cyclone Batsirai has risen to 92 after the tropical storm ravaged the island of Madagascar earlier this week, displacing more than 112,000 people, the state disaster relief agency said on Wednesday.

Among the deaths, 71 people died in the Ikongo district about 530 kilometers (330 miles) south of Antananarivo, the capital, officials said. The disaster relief agency updated the death toll from 29 to 80 on Wednesday.

“Most of the houses are made of clay and when there are floods, the houses become like mud and they collapse,” Ikongo district deputy Jean-Brunelle Razafintsiandraofa said. “They collapsed on people and became like tombs for people who were asleep.”

The rural district remains completely isolated because landslides have blocked road access, he said.

The cyclone slammed into the Indian Ocean island late on Saturday, knocking down houses and electricity lines as it battered the southeastern coast. The storm moved away late on Sunday, leaving 91,000 people with destroyed or damaged homes.

A lawmaker representing the district had previously said the death toll was high in the region and that most victims had drowned or been crushed when their houses collapsed.

The disaster relief agency said humanitarian relief workers had arrived from France and Germany to help with the response.

Batsirai was Madagascar’s second destructive storm in two weeks after Cyclone Ana killed 55 people and displaced 130,000 in a different area of the country, further north.

The island nation, which has a population of nearly 30 million, was already struggling with food shortages in the south, a consequence of a severe and prolonged drought.

The World Food Programme said Batsirai had made the situation worse by destroying the crops of rice, fruits and vegetables that were just two weeks away from harvest.

The cyclone caused widespread flooding and made 12 roads and 14 bridges impassable, cutting off some of the worst affected areas and impeding efforts to bring relief to local communities.

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